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One year on: Displaced families of Masiphumelele blaze becoming impatient over poor temporary accommodation conditions

Temporary shacks were built last year by the City of Cape Town for families displaced by a fire but they are extremely cramped. (Photo: Marecia Damons)

Mayco Member for Human Settlements Malusi Booi commits to start building permanent houses in Cape Town's south peninsula township before the end of 2022.

Fire destroyed about a thousand shacks in Masiphumelele in December 2020. In response, the City of Cape Town installed a temporary relocation area (TRA) on a nearby sports field in February.

On Wednesday, officials from the City, province and national government visited the area. They were met by disgruntled residents, pessimistic about the government’s response to their poor living conditions.

The visiting dignitaries included Mayco Member for Human Settlements Malusi Booi, Western Cape MEC for Human Settlements Tertius Simmers, National Minister of Human Settlements Mmamoloko Kubayi and Deputy Minister Pamela Tshwete.

One of the complaints is that the sports field is too small to accommodate all the displaced families. Many of the units are built very close together, leaving very little space for residents to move. “If your house is leaking at the back, you can’t fix it because there isn’t enough space for you to move there,” resident Sakhumzi Sitibili told GroundUp.

People also complained to us about lack of electricity, leaking homes, lack of waste collection and irregular communal toilet cleaning.

Community leader Lunga Mathambo (far right) addresses Ministers Mmamoloko Kubayi (left), Pamela Tshwete and Tertius Simmers. (Photo: Marecia Damons)

Akhona Zazini said: “The site has no bins, and residents are only given one refuse bag per household once every two weeks. How can they expect one household to only use one blue bag for a whole two weeks?”

“We sent the City pictures of the water in our houses last year, but they never came. Whenever they do come, they only fix what they can see and not what we tell them to fix,” said Sitibili.

Community leader Lunga Mathambo told Minister Kubayi that the City had moved the residents there despite their objections.

But Mayco Member Booi painted a more complicated picture: He said that before moving residents to the temporary units, the City had engaged with the residents, “but now there is a conflict”.

There were violent clashes between the community and law enforcement officers over the use of the sports field last year. Youths complained about the loss of their sports field and it divided the community.

Kubayi told residents that her department would liaise with the provincial and municipal human settlements departments and appoint a company and a social facilitator to assist the community directly.

“I take responsibility and I have to make sure that those things that were committed to communities are done. It’s not an ideal situation to have people moved into shacks,” she said.

Booi said that the City is planning to start building permanent housing in the last quarter of 2022. “Once the relevant services are done, immediately after we will erect the structures. The area will be next to the sports field and on the previously burnt site.” DM

Akhona Zazini said many of the doors of the portable toilets are damaged, leaving residents with no privacy. Photo: Marecia Damons

First published in GroundUp.

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  • I don’t want to sound like a privileged rich f-tard (that I might well be), but in context: you come to Cape From from some economically “s-hole” other place, raise a shack on some land that is not yours, are the victim of one of the all-too frequent ghetto fires, then complain that the temporary dwelling the city gifts you is inadequate to your needs. No one wants to see the poor suffer, but surely a better solution for this or any other city is to provide “site and service” on which families can build their own home. Burn down, build again, services remain. All people, eventually, have to take responsibility for themselves.

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