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City of Cape Town under fire over limited assistance for flood victims in informal settlements

JK Masenoma Road flooded near Island informal settlement in Khayelitsha. Photographer: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

JK Masenoma Road flooded near Island informal settlement in Khayelitsha. Photographer: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 28, 2022

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Cape Town - The City of Cape Town has been criticised after stating that it was doing what it could to reduce the impact of flooding after the recent heavy rains, but that it was unable to assist flood victims from informal settlements on land that was “unsuitable for human habitation”.

Human settlements Mayco member Malusi Booi said: “The City is unfortunately unable to assist people who settled in an area which is not conducive to human habitation or where flood mitigation measures do not work due to the land being waterlogged.”

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Booi said they had expected flooding incidents this winter to impact the informal settlements, which were created through many organised unlawful occupations on flood-prone areas such as in Dunoon, Khayelitsha, Kraaifontein and Mfuleni since the start of the national Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020.

Covid-19 informal settlement resident Luthando Mcuntula said they understood that their shacks were built in a flood-prone area, but more than 420 residents had lost their shacks in the past two weeks, due to flooding.

Mcuntula implored the City to assist, and said residents were open to relocation after the impact of the floods and the fear of incoming winter damage to lives, belongings and homes.

Judy-Ann Stevens, acting spokesperson for the ANC caucus in the City council, said: “Informal settlements, no matter where it is started, are a direct result of the City’s inability to provide adequate housing to all those in need.

“The only wish of the desperate and homeless is to provide a roof over their heads, and doing environmental assessments is furthest from their minds. The City can’t provide alternative land, there is no suitable land for informal housing or formal housing and that is the real problem they wish to ignore.”

Khayelitsha ward councillor Mthwalo Mkutswana added that as councillors of townships, they were having major problems regarding informal settlements and the City’s stance in dealing with them.

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“At this stage, we are waiting for the national minister to assist residents when he visits on July 1,” Mkutswana said.

Booi said the City spends almost all of its nationally transferred grants on housing. He said they were not minimising the plight of residents, but maximising the message that occupation of unsuitable land increased health and safety risks for residents.

Ndifuna Ukwazi spokesperson Yusrah Bardien said the refusal by the City not to help people in an emergency because of the legal status of the land they live on, was ghastly, cruel, inhumane and petty.

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“The City has a duty to care for everyone in the metropolitan area. Where the City takes issue with the legal status of the land people are living on, is an unjust reason to punish these same people in an emergency,

“The Covid-19 pandemic saw an increase in informal housing due to the unintended outcomes of lockdown.

“The City should see the act of living on these kinds of erfs for what it is, an act of desperation … People suffering the effects of a flood are no different from those in a burning house – the fire brigade would not stop to consider the legal status of the land the house is on, so why should the City?” Bardien asked.

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