Covid-19 puts Duncan Village project in the fast lane

Duncan Village will benefit from millions of rands set aside for Covid-19 battle.
Duncan Village will benefit from millions of rands set aside for Covid-19 battle.
Image: FILE

Buffalo City Metro has received a R340m boost in its fight against Covid-19, money which will be used to “evacuate” its densely populated communities — chief among them  informal settlement-ridden Duncan Village.

On March 27 human settlements, water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu signed off on an urban settlements development grant (USDG) framework, with specific condition that BCM uses the funds to construct a low-density Duncan Village, which will, in the short-term, help in the fight against Covid-19 and in long-term, “de-densify” the area, mayor Xola Pakati said on Sunday.

Pakati said finer details about the plans would be communicated later this week.

Over the weekend the province's caseload moved from five to 10 people who had tested positive to coronavirus.

Premier Oscar Mabuyane's spokesperson Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha said on Sunday all five new cases had mild symptoms and have been isolated in their homes. 

He said out of 77 people tested in the province so far, 10 had been confirmed positive for coronavirus.

"As of [Saturday] we had three new cases from Sarah Baartman district, one from Nelson Mandela Bay Metro and one from Chris Hani district. 

"The provincial government is working with all five people to ensure that they take their treatment as prescribed, and that they adhere to the treatment protocols including requirements of isolation in their homes.

"Three of the five people had a history of international travelling, while two were travelling locally. The province is now tracing people that came into contact with these five individuals to conduct further tests to ensure there was no transmission of the virus," Sicwetsha said.

In this group, he added, three are between the ages of 25 and 26, one is over 60 years and the other is over 40.

In late January, DispatchLIVE reported that Pakati, human settlements MEC Nonkqubela Pieters and the national human settlements department announced a R220m plan to rebuild Duncan Village in multiple phases.

That would see an initial group of 5,500 people being moved to a temporary housing site.

On Sunday, Pakati said Sisulu topped up the funding to fast-track the project, which has now become an emergency in light of the coronavirus threat.

At the weekend Sisulu said residents in populous townships such as Duncan Village would have to be evacuated and resettled elsewhere to mitigate the rampant Covid-19.

Pakati said Sisulu had asked the city to commit the money to constructing a less populated Duncan Village.

Sisulu's spokesperson, McIntosh Polela, confirmed the cash injection on Sunday.

“We have allocated an amount of R342m to BCM. We have requested that if required they can use part of that amount to provide for human settlement measures to combat Covid-19, including identification of land, provision of water and sanitation, as well as provision of alternative accommodation.”

This comes after the Dispatch wrote a story on March 20 highlighting that Covid-19, according to Chinese research, can spread though faeces. In an area like Duncan Village, which has had a broken sewerage system for decades, this could be little short of catastrophic.

Pakati said: “This (funding) is to fight further spread of the coronavirus.

“BCM received this injection, but part of the condition is that this money is used to fast-track the process of de-densification of Duncan Village and other informal areas, which the municipality will identify.”

He said BCM was chosen because of its “good use of the USDG grant”.

“This is a long-term project, of course. The municipality will be expediting its process (to fight against Covid-19). The funding commitment was received on March 27.”

He said people will be moved to temporary structures in locations that are yet to be identified.

“For a virus of this nature and other forms of social challenges, you need to de-densify Duncan Village going forward,” he said.

Pressed for further information, Pakati said he would be able to provide details later this week.

Health minister Zwele Mkhize on Saturday reported the country's first coronavirus death last week in the Western Cape and brought the national number of people who had tested positive for the virus to  1,187.

Speaking to Dispatch on Sunday, Mkhize's spokesperson Dr Lwazi Manzi said she could neither confirm nor deny the numbers for the province in a document doing the rounds on social media.

It breaks down the number of tests done in the province's eight regions as follows: 

* BCM had nine people tested, with three of them in East London testing positive;

* Alfred Nzo district:  one tested, with zero infections;

* Amathole: one test, one infection;

* Chris Hani: two tests, one infection in Komani;

* Joe Gqabi: one test, 0 infections;

* Nelson Mandela Bay Metro: 29 tests, with two infections  at Walmer and Blue Water Bay;

* OR Tambo: 12 tests, no infections; and

* Sarah Baartman: 22 tests and three infections at Aberdeen, Makhanda and Jeffery's Bay.

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