Informal homes built next to the Diep River in Dunoon were flooded after heavy rainfall last week. PIcture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)
Informal homes built next to the Diep River in Dunoon were flooded after heavy rainfall last week. PIcture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

'Unfair for City of Cape Town to link flooding to land occupations'

By Shakirah Thebus Time of article published Jul 8, 2021

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Cape Town - It was unfair for the City to link localised flooding at informal settlements to land occupations, according to Zama Mgwatyu, programme manager of non-profit organisation Development Action Group.

The City said land occupations and invasions in flood-prone and water-logged areas made the distribution of flood kits near ineffective, following the week-long heavy rainfall.

Following more than 200 on-site assessments, the City said flooding was reported on what it claimed to be mostly “newly unlawfully occupied areas” on waterlogged land.

“We have informal settlements today due to the failure of the government, both local and national, to address the housing needs of the majority of the people of this country. If you register on the housing database, you don’t know when you will receive anything.

“Not everyone qualifies for an RDP home. We have seen, out of desperation, occupation of vacant pieces of land. These people are not engineers, they are desperate for housing,” said Mgwatyu.

“Government should be proactive in identifying pieces of land, should package that and assist and give them an opportunity to build their own houses. It is unfair to expect locals to do the work of the engineers and architects; they are not trained to be built environment professionals.”

He said not much support was given to those who had occupied land last year during the hard lockdown, where many people, particularly backyard dwellers renting on privately owned land, were evicted.

“The Western Cape Rental Tribunal does not support those who are renting in the township, and hence we saw mainly backyarders invading, especially during the lockdown and by those who are in the informal sector.”

Mayco member for Human Settlements Malusi Booi said the City provided 2 000 flooding support packets, and individual plastic sheeting and sandbags, where possible, in informal settlements grappling with flooding.

“In about 70% of all new unlawfully occupied areas, feasible flood mitigation is not possible due to the low-lying terrain, including floodplains, wetlands and waterlogged areas. In addition, some of the land that has been occupied is situated in dams or is privately owned.”

He said many of the flooding hotspots were in recently occupied areas, such as Mfuleni, Kraaifontein, Dunoon and Khayelitsha.

“The spike in unlawful occupations since the start of the March 2020 Covid-19 lockdown is causing severe challenges on the ground, as we can see from the high level of flooding incidents and where they have occurred.

“The City has consistently advised residents of the health and safety risks associated with the unlawful occupation of unsuitable low-lying, flood prone and waterlogged land.

“There are simply no feasible engineering solutions for some of the areas, for instance, those situated in ponds or dams or on privately owned land. The City will continue to assist where it is possible to do so,” said Booi.

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