Empolweni residents protest at Parliament over an overflowing sewage canal
Cape Town - After winning their case against the City of Cape Town for unlawfully evicting them, Empolweni residents in Khayelitsha protested at Parliament against the City, claiming it had not responded to their calls for help regarding an overflowing sewage canal.
A group of about 50 residents on Tuesday staged the protest march after they had won the right to stay in the community after numerous attempts by the City to have them move.
Community leader Malwande Luzipho said just three days after winning the court case against the City and being granted permission to build structures in the Ethembeni informal settlement, the Khayelitsha waste sewage system had overflowed, flooding newly-built structures with human waste.
Luzipho said: “For the past 32 days we have been trying to get assistance in removing the sewage flowing freely in our community and into our homes, but to no avail”.
Khayelitsha spokesperson Nomathemba Masemula said: “This a gross violation of human rights. This is not only a major health risk but a gross subjection to repulsive living conditions.”
Ethembeni resident Nyameka Mantambo said: “We are living in filth, our families are living in the midst of sewage and we are getting sick. I thought that the worst thing to have happened to me this year would be the City tearing down my home but we are literally living with human waste”.
Ethembeni community leader Nomfune Khaono said the community’s protest on Monday morning was a result of 32 days of what seemed like intentional neglect by the City of Cape Town to clear and drain sewage flowing down their streets.
She said: “We have been trying to get assistance in removing overflowing sewage from our homes for the past 32 days. The City continues to ignore our calls for help and we're left to feel as if we are not human beings.
“This is a crisis, our families are beginning to fall ill and the worst part is that the human waste floating in between our homes does not belong to us.”
Social Justice Coalition spokesperson Nomathemba Masemula said that the SJC was appalled at the situation in Ethembeni and saddened by the city’s continual disregard for people living in impoverished communities.
Masemula said: “Allowing people to live in filth due to gross incompetence is a violation of their basic human rights. People living in high-density communities pay their taxes and are entitled to service delivery and maintenance. Poverty is not a choice, the City needs to immediately attend to these communities and timeously fix rusted and broken sewer pipes”.
In response to the allegations of intentional negligence made by frustrated residents from Ethembeni, Mayco member for Human Settlements Malusi Booi said that there was a reason why the City had not designated that area for housing.
Booi said: “Forceful occupations have a very negative impact on planned projects, community facilities, basic services, beneficiaries of housing projects and infrastructure expansion and maintenance.
“The City does not have infinite resources, we always communicate to residents emphasizing that we do not normally prioritize newly formed unplanned settlements at the expense of existing settlements for which we have made provision in our budget.”
“The spread of unplanned informal settlements is thus simply unsustainable and immediate service demands are not always, if at all, possible to satisfy at the expense of other planned informal settlement spend,” said Booi.
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