No relief from siege by marauding rats

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bitten by rats

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Nobantu Matshelmane, 64, was bitten on the finger while she slept. Pictures: Thomas Holder

Cape Town - Residents of Khayelitsha have been terrorised by rats for more than a decade. It has been a year since the Cape Argus reported on the plight of the residents of SST Town II, but little has changed.

Nobantu Matshelmane has been living in Khayelitsha for as long as she can remember.

“They promised us houses, but all we have are rats attacking us in these shacks,” she said, pointing at the bite marks on her hands.

Matshelmane’s 10-year-old grandson has been bitten three times.

“The rats are huge, and human-like. We have to put our containers away because they open them and eat our food,” said the 64-year-old.

According to the residents, the rats were attracted by a container placed in the area by the city for people to dump their rubbish in.

“People are dumping everything here. Some people even use the area as a toilet, because we have no toilets here,” said resident Maxy Rasmen.

The area around the container is strewn with refuse, discarded furniture and human excrement.

“The smell is strong and probably attracts the rats,” said Rasmen. “I’m scared for my eight-month-old-baby, because rats have been known to kill small babies.”

Rasmen and other mothers said they covered their children at night in an attempt to prevent them being bitten by rats, which came out at dusk.

“Even in this heat, we have to bundle our children in blankets, otherwise the rats will bite them,” Rasmen said.

According to the Social Justice Coalition, rats and dumping have long been a problem in the community.

“The city has tried projects to clean up swamps where these rats are coming from, but that hasn’t worked well,” said coalition spokesman Azolile Notywala.

He said he often heard stories from parents about rats tormenting their children.

Khayelitsha ward councillor Monde Nqulwana said some of the blame lay with the community, who did not follow the guidelines given by the city’s environmental health department.

“People are still dumping meat and food, which will attract the rats.”

Nqulwana said the wetlands and stagnant water had led to an increase in the rat population. “It will probably get worse with the rain in winter”.

Councillor Lungiswa James, the mayoral committee member for health, said that the City of Cape Town managed the areas where rodent breeding occurred.

“”Rats are a manifestation of, among other things, poor waste management. The city has waste contractors to render the service across the city, including informal settlements. However, in some instances, residents do not co-operate by leaving the rubbish out on collection day.”

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