Cape communities face floods and rain damage after stormy weekend
A weekend of stormy weather in Cape Town saw nonprofit Gift of the Givers receiving calls from flood-affected communities across the metro. Residents of Gxagxa informal settlement in Gugulethu lost food and belongings to a flood, while a crèche in Khayelitsha lost part of its ceiling to heavy rains.
Structures in Gxagxa informal settlement, Gugulethu, were flooded over the weekend when heavy rains struck the City of Cape Town. While the rain had subsided by the morning of Monday, 24 April, the floodwaters had not, with many residents’ homes still surrounded by water.
Over 3o structures are estimated to have been affected by the flooding. Mirvin Tshabalala, a community leader in Gugulethu, described the situation as a “crisis”.
“[This happens] every winter – winter in, winter out. For the past 30 years, this has been happening. It’s painful,” he said.
“They just have to stay … in this situation. I can’t be sleeping when I know there are people out there with children … and there’s no promise that the sun will come up anytime now.”
The South African Weather Service issued a “yellow level 3 warning” for disruptive rain on Sunday, 23 April, with the Western Cape listed as one of the affected regions. Expected impacts included flooding of roads and settlements, both formal and informal.
Gift of the Givers was at Gxagxa informal settlement on Monday with supplies such as warm clothing, blankets, toiletry packs and food parcels. The organisation was notified of flooding in the area on Saturday, but could not assist on Sunday due to the severe rains, according to Ali Sablay, project manager at Gift of the Givers.
“[The residents] could not save anything – some of their food got washed away; clothing destroyed; mattresses destroyed. So, we are here today to provide that relief. We saw the weather was clearing up and … most of the water in their structures [was receding],” he said.
However, affected community members declined the Gift of the Givers’ aid, with some citing concerns that any food or resources provided would only get wet and spoiled while their homes remained flooded. The nonprofit arranged to return with supplies once the area was dry.
Tshabalala told Daily Maverick there was a need for a sustainable solution to the problem in the form of proper housing for residents.
“I’m urging that these people need to be moved with immediate effect,” he said, adding that there were open spaces in the local community where they could be accommodated.
“We need these people to be housed, so that they can fend for themselves.”
Neziwe Mazolwana, founder of Ukhokhelo Lolutsha Organisation – a nonprofit in Gugulethu that provides after-school support for learners – said the rainy season affected the ability of some children to attend school.
“The kids came to me. Some, they are hungry and their clothes are wet and they can’t even sleep,” she said. “It’s very bad.”
Gxagxa borders a detention pond – a permanent water retention basin. According to Charlotte Powell, spokesperson for the City of Cape Town Disaster Risk Management Centre, the area where the settlement is located is a natural watercourse. The only option for managing flooding is to relocate residents.
“The City of Cape Town relocated the residents from Gxagxa last year, to Eerste River. The pond was subsequently fenced in to prevent further expansion. There are approximately 35 dwellings encroaching on the embankment of the pond where flooding does occur,” she said.
Gxagxa was not the only area affected by the heavy rains. The Disaster Risk Management Centre received reports of flooding in Khayelitsha and Gugulethu, with assessments ongoing in those areas, according to Powell.
Gift of the Givers received calls from Khayelitsha, Masiphumelele, Bishop Lavis and Mitchells Plain regarding floods or rain damage, said Sablay.
“Our teams will be visiting all these areas today to see what kind of assistance we can provide them,” he said.
“It’s actually a relief that not so many areas have called, [compared] to last year. But our team will be on the ground to assist those affected.”
In Khayelitsha, the heavy rains caused part of a classroom ceiling at Msobomvu Educare Centre to collapse. Gift of the Givers delivered supplies – including food, mattresses and blankets – to the crèche on Monday.
The centre caters to 39 children between three months and five years of age. Principal Connie Mase told Daily Maverick she had to ask some parents to keep their children at home on Monday, while the ones who attended crèche were accommodated in her dining room, office and an other classroom.
“It just disturbed us because they couldn’t do their activities… that they do on Monday,” she said.
The whole of the damaged roof will need to be replaced, according to Mase. Until then, the room cannot be used.
“I can’t keep [the children] here, they will get sick – you can feel the cold,” she said.
With poor weather predicted within the next few days, Sablay said Gift of the Givers was expecting many more calls for assistance to come through.
“Winter months, we really stock up our warehouses because we know what kind of disaster we’re going to deal with,” he said. “And we know the hotspots that will be calling us… because when you see the infrastructure there… the drains cannot handle the amount of water going through.” DM/MC