South Africa

Municipal Matters

Upgrade for Hout Bay’s Imizamo Yethu after 2017 blaze ‘almost complete’

Upgrade for Hout Bay’s Imizamo Yethu after 2017 blaze ‘almost complete’
Since 2017, eight people have died in Imizamo Yethu fires, says a community leader. (Photo: Ashraf Hendricks)

It’s been three years since the City of Cape Town set out to reblock Imizamo Yethu after a devastating fire in 2017. Although the city is still in court over temporarily relocating residents, it has managed to devise an alternative reblocking plan which is almost complete.

The reblocking of Imizamo Yethu following a devastating fire that ravaged the area in 2017 is almost complete despite being halted by court cases and community disputes.

This is according to Waleed Adams, the City of Cape Town’s head of engineering services, who was reporting back to the city’s human settlements committee on Thursday.

“When we initiated the project to reblock the informal settlement, there were tensions on the ground that disrupted the project,” said Adams. 

The fire that broke out in March 2017 affected 6,100 residents and resulted in the death of three people. At the time, fire emergency vehicles struggled to access the informal settlement because structures were built too close to one another.

“Reblocking the informal settlement means that the city “would create roads and pedestrian walkways to provide spaces between demarcated blocks of structures. These spaces would also be used to provide peripheral shared water points, sanitation services, as well as infrastructure for formal electricity connection points to each structure. This way, the city would also be able to enhance access for emergency services, paramedics, police and other services to the area in order to prevent or otherwise better manage future disasters,” reads the emergency project report on Imizamo Yethu.

At the time, the city had committed about R90-million for the reblocking project. 

“From the inception [of the reblocking project] there were issues… the city was engaging with community leaders, but there was another group of people who claimed that they were the community leaders,” said Adams. 

This led to protests which halted the building of the infrastructure, Adams told the committee.

Before the reblocking could begin, the project required some residents to be temporarily relocated, but some were not willing to move, leading to the city seeking an eviction order. The residents were opposed to moving into temporary 3m2 structures.

Between 95 and 100 residents would have been affected by the temporary relocation, said Adams. Adams did not say how many residents refused to relocate.

The city also wanted to temporarily move residents to an area called Triangle, which “the people [the Hout Bay Ratepayers’ Association] in that area were opposed to, so they took the city to court,” said Adams.

Rhoda-Ann Bazier, an ANC councillor, wanted to know whether the multiple court cases had meant the reblocking procedure had been halted.

Adams said that while the cases were still in court, there had been significant work done.

Originally, there were to have been six roads built, but because the city was unable to temporarily remove some residents, an alternative plan had been devised. In the alternative plan, three roads are under construction, including water, sewer and stormwater infrastructure.

Two of the roads are 75% complete, while the third is 90% complete.

Adams did not give an indication on when the projects would be finished, and neither did he say how revising the reblocking project would impact on access for emergency, police and other services.

According to the reblocking report presented to the committee, increased land occupations during lockdown “forced” the city to deploy 48 Red Ants members “for two months to fight land invasions at an extraordinarily high cost”. Neither the report nor Adams gave the exact cost of deploying the Red Ants.

At a previous human settlements committee meeting, Malusi Booi, the mayoral committee member for human settlements, said he had asked the directorate to reprioritise R16-million for private security to prevent land occupations. DM

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