Thulisile Ntobela, once lived in an apartment, but when her rent went up 25 percent, the unemployed mother of five could no longer afford and moved out.
She found a piece of vacant land in Durban and put up a shack.
That was five years ago and much cheaper than paying rent, which had gone up to 200 rand ($12.80).
“That’s why we moved here, we don’t pay the rent. You just build your house and you stay,” she said.
Hers was among the 87 homes — shacks made of corrugated iron — that vanished in seconds when the ground, over-saturated with flood water — crumbled at the informal settlement of eNkanini, on a hilltop residential area of central Durban.
“I was so scared at that time. I was holding my baby. People were screaming,” recalled the 31-year-old, carrying her youngest, an eight-month-old boy.
No one was injured because they had already taken shelter at a neighbour’s home when the floor began to tremble.
Once covered in trees, the settlement of eNkanini formed in 2016 is now dotted with hundreds of shacks, some painted in bright colours.
“We don’t have homes. This is our home,” said Mzwandile Hlatshwayo, 25, a leader in the community.
Nearly 13 percent of South Africa’ 59 million people live in shacks, locally referred to as informal settlements, according to 2019 government statistics.
Hlatshwayo is from a rural area of KwaZulu-Natal but moved to the eastern province’s biggest city Durban in search of work.
He would live in government housing, but none is available in the city.
“I came here looking for a job. There is no jobs in rural areas,” he said.
The problem of landlessness goes back to the apartheid era that segregated black Africans and people of colour, preventing them from owning land, said Sbu Zikode, head of the land and housing activism organisation Abahlali baseMjondolo (shack dwellers).