Backyard dwellers have been left in the dark about whether the City will be rolling out decent services by Christmas. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)
Backyard dwellers have been left in the dark about whether the City will be rolling out decent services by Christmas. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Cape backyarders still without basic decent services, says anti-eviction campaigner

By Marvin Charles Time of article published Dec 1, 2020

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Cape Town - Backyard dwellers have been left in the dark about whether the City will be rolling out decent services by Christmas.

At the beginning of the year the City said it had allocated R2.1 billion for formal housing and R4bn for informal settlements and backyard dwellers, but according to a number of communities not a cent was used.

Anti-Eviction Campaign co-ordinator Mncedisi Twalo said: “There has been no progress made for backyarders and many of the residents live on City-owned properties and they have not provided any services. The City has constantly told us that there are plans in the pipeline.”

Twalo said the poorest residents who stayed in backyards were most at risk of Covid-19 because they had no proper water or amenities.

“They have not prioritised backyarders, this government, and next year for local government elections they will make more empty promises.”

The City said that it had allocated about R2.1bn over the medium term for formal housing opportunities on suitable, well-located land, close to public transport, jobs, government services and public amenities, and more than R4bn has been allocated for formalising informal accommodation, such as informal settlements and backyard dwellings. At the time it was gearing up to implement its housing strategy, which at present is going through public participation.

According to a report by the City, rapid urbanisation is making it difficult to provide services to backyard dwellers. It also said it was unable to deliver services to some areas effectively as they were too densely populated.

Gatvol Capetonians’ Fadiel Adams said: “We reject the City’s provision for services because that makes backyarders’ living arrangements permanent. The City should rather use that money to provide land to the people.”

The group protested last year and earlier this year against a lack of housing opportunities for coloured people, the perpetuation of apartheid-style spatial planning, a total lack of housing opportunities close to work and the never-ending waiting list for housing, among other things.

“They (the City) don’t feel accountable. People are being evicted and the lockdown and Covid, for them, has become a blessing,” said Adams.

Mayco member for human settlements Malusi Booi said: “The City was the first city in South Africa to introduce basic services provision to backyarders. The backyarder programme entails the provision of water, sanitation, refuse and electricity services to backyarders residing on council-owned property, such as rental units, where it is possible to do so.

“At times the services are rejected by the residents or community leadership; space is also a challenge to install services, as the backyard dwellings are generally densely populated. Over the medium-term more than R4bn has been allocated to the upgrading of informal settlements which includes basic service provision to backyarders.”

However, Booi did not say how much of the budget announced at the beginning of the year has been spent.

Cape Argus

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