n this week’s episode of Special Assignment we visit Lapland, one of the largest informal settlements in Gauteng, situated a few metres from Eldoradopark and Pimville in the south of Johannesburg. The shocking conditions that the poorest of the poor are living in in present day South Africa constitutes a human rights tragedy wherein up to 10,000 people have no access to clean water and sanitation.

The informal settlement of Lapland arose from the adjacent Grootkoppies dumping site where garbage trucks offloaded during their runs in and around the greater Soweto area. 16 years ago a handful of families settled on the site as a means to earn money from recycling rubbish. The people of Lapland built make-shift shacks from waste materials and managed to survive in dire conditions.

Most of the residents are foreign nationals from Lesotho and Zimbabwe. We profile a family from Lesotho – mother and daughter Mdwako and Malefu Mbele and a few locals who rely on the dump to earn a living.

The residents of Eldoradopark and Pimville who are in close proximity to the dumping site have drawn up a petition to have the people living on the rubbish dump relocated to a more suitable location. They claim the noxious fumes, human waste and unpleasant odours emanating from Lapland and the dumpsite affects their health.

The City of Johannesburg’s Deputy Director of Media Relations Nthatisi Modingoane acknowledged the City is aware that up to 10,000 people are living in Lapland and says it is in the process of finding suitable land to relocate them to. They claim however, that the foreign nationals living there will have to go through the government’s system to qualify for housing.

Tarisai Mungunyani, a lawyer representing Lawyers for Human Rights says that regardless of nationality or immigrant status, it is the government’s responsibility to provide access to clean water and sanitation to anyone living in South Africa.

Recently the City of Tshwane successfully enhanced the informal settlement Pienaarspoort by granting its residents access to clean water delivered in tanks and temporary toilet facilities.

Watch “People Live Here” produced by Lee McCabe, broadcast on Special Assignment, SABC 3 on Sunday at 20h30.