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City of Cape Town told to review its 'ineffective' winter readiness programme

Mpolweni Informal Settlement in Khayelitsha still flooded days after Cape heavy rains. – Picture: Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency (ANA)

Mpolweni Informal Settlement in Khayelitsha still flooded days after Cape heavy rains. – Picture: Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 21, 2022


Cape Town - The City of Cape Town’s winter readiness plan has come in for major flak after the heavy rains which saw several areas flooded.

The ANC in the legislature said with winter officially starting tomorrow, more misery is expected.

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Opposition leader in the legislature Cameron Dugmore said for more than 15 years, the DA in the City and province had failed to upgrade informal settlements and invest in critical infrastructure in the Cape Flats and township areas, having unashamedly focused on wealthy suburbs.

Dugmore said he had engaged with ANC councillors in the City and had developed 10 proposals for the short and medium-term that included a campaign for public donations, land release by spheres of government to those communities living below the flood line, and provision of emergency shelter.

However, the City said the programme had an impact as many areas that, in the past, were prone to flooding, were not, because of engineering and other interventions.

This while flood victims in different informal settlement areas are adapting to what might be their lives this rainy season. Others like those in the Burundi informal settlement, Mfuleni, who forcefully occupied Chris Hani Community Hall, had vowed to not to leave until their homes were no longer flooded, while others have yet to rebuild their shacks.

Bishop Lavis Action Community spokesperson Amanda Davids said it was high time the City addressed the issue of the infrastructure instead of constantly “putting a plaster on a gaping wound”.

“We have been begging the City to upgrade the infrastructure, to no avail. We have also asked that the storm drains be removed from the people’s yards, but to no avail. We log calls every second day for yards and roads flooded with sewage.

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“In winter it is 1000 times worse because the infrastructure was not designed to carry so much.

“We are still living with the apartheid town planning with the number of people having more than tripled. The answer to all this is always ‘there is no budget’. We have had enough, we have the right to live with dignity,” she said.

Social Justice Coalition spokesperson Thando George said the City was not a humanitarian organisation but an elected government that has a constitutional obligation to ensure its people were taken care of.

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“Outside of the provision of blankets, which we think are important, this programme does not address long-standing issues such as ensuring that people have access to adequate housing and functioning drainage systems in flood-prone informal settlements.

“Winter flooding in informal settlements is a recurring annual disaster in Cape Town, but despite this flood-risk management in informal settlements is minimal. The result of this is long-term economic and social consequences and destabilisation and disruption of people’s lives and livelihoods,” she said.

The EFF in the metro said the devastating effects of the floods in both formal and informal areas were a clear reflection of empty promises that had not been fulfilled. It said this was also an indication of the fact that such promises would never be fulfilled.

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The City said its winter readiness plans were reviewed annually. It said the programme was not to eradicate the risk of flooding or other weather impacts, but rather to mitigate the impacts and ensure that the City is geared to respond to incidents when they happen.

The City said while hundreds of kilometres of sewer and stormwater pipes were cleaned out in the months leading up to winter, a lot of litter and other waste was removed from some of the blocked drains during mop-up operations last week. It said this was in spite of efforts made through transversal public education and awareness around waste management.

In terms of the provision of emergency alternative shelter, the city said this required careful consideration of the immediate needs of those affected by incidents.

It said people’s desires to safeguard their properties and belongings and restore their disrupted lives had resulted in limited uptake of emergency shelter opportunities in the past.

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Cape Argus