East London is the fourth largest harbour city of South Africa and is situated on the Indian Ocean on the south east coast of the country. Mzamomhle was established in 1987 and is situated on sandy soil, on the coast, and is not environmentally suitable for settlement.
There is a tarred access road into the settlement, although it is not maintained. The majority of houses are accessible via sandy footpaths. There is a community hall, a school and clinic. population (1996): 4 468 people, 97% black african. The majority of the households are female-headed. The residents of Mzamomhle are mainly employed on farms in the area, and in the nearby town of Gonubie. 39% of the population is unemployed, and the crime rate in the township is high.
80% of the households use one room for sleeping. Dwellings are built with whatever materials are available or affordable: corrugated iron, plastic sheets, cardboard and wood. The family Pamla, live, cook and sleep in one room. Paraffin is the main source of fuel for cooking, heating and lighting. Disasters in the highly cramped shacks mostly made of wood and other inflammable materials pose an extreme and real danger for fires. This family has no electricity. Piped drinking water is available at a public tap. They have no running water in their house. They have no toilet facilities, and there are no proper refuge dumps in the township. Conditions are not sanitary.
In Mzamomhle, only 10-20% of the population has finished school, and 20% cannot read or write. Thus, severe poverty among households with poorly educated heads of household abounds. Research shows that there is not a large difference in poverty rates between individuals that have no education and those with less than 7 years of education.