CAPE TOWN - DA federal Council chairperson Helen Zille’s “outrageous” comments that it was better to be poor in Langa than in other townships is a slap in the face for Langa residents, many of whom lost everything in a recent fire, says Human Settlements Deputy Minister Pam Tshwete.
She said Zille’s statement seemed to justify and glorify informal dwelling in the Western Cape.
“No one wants to live in informal settlements. To say living in the latter in Cape Town is better as compared to other townships in the country is a slap in the face for Joe Slovo informal settlements dwellers who recently lost their structures as a result of fire and are currently displaced,” said Tshwete.
Zille has been under fire since the comments she made during a radio interview on Tuesday following a fire which left more than 700 people displaced and destroyed more than 300 shacks in the Joe Slovo informal settlement at the weekend.
After being labelled an unrepentant racist by Langa residents and ward councillors, Zille took to social media on Wednesday accusing the Cape Times of manufacturing outrage.
While @capetimesSA is busy manufacturing outrage about Langa, how about running a story that really deserves some outrage? Here it is: in the devastating recent fire, people attacked the fire-fighters, cut the fire-hoses and tried to rob the fire trucks. That is scandalous!— Helen Zille (@helenzille) April 20, 2022
Zille has stuck to her comments and denied that she justified or glorified any informal settlements.
“This is a twisted decontextualised lie. Please include the fact that when the fire engines arrived at the fire they were attacked by members of the community who cut the hoses and attempted to steal from the vehicles. That is the real scandal here,” said Zille.
During her visit to Langa recently, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and her deputy, Kholeka Gcaleka, experienced first-hand the hardships that residents faced. They were told of overflowing drains that had not been fixed for weeks.
Asked to comment on Wednesday, Mkhwebane’s office said they had observed that the community of the residential area in Langa lived in inhabitable flats, some with human excrement seeping through the damaged pipes, flowing on doorsteps.
Mkhwebane’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, said: “Residents with whom the public protector engaged on the day alleged that they had raised the issue with the City of Cape Town, to no avail. The mayor, who accompanied the public protector during the inspection in loco, said R50 million had been set aside to overhaul the sanitation system at the flats in question and in other areas within the city. He also undertook to have municipal sanitation trucks deployed in the area to attend to individual sewage problems.
“The public protector is preparing a report on the observations made during the roadshow. The office is also monitoring the implementation of the undertakings made by various state functionaries,” said Segalwe.
Asked to comment on Zille’s remarks, acting mayor Eddie Andrews said mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis had stated that one of the City’s primary objectives was to lift residents out of poverty and that everything was geared towards achieving this.
“One of the first announcements made by the mayor in November last year was to increase the allocation by the City towards indigent grants and relief for residents in need, increasing the allocation by R600 million from R3.1 billion to R3.7bn for free basic services to indigent residents,” said Andrews.
Premier Alan Winde’s spokesperson, Cayla Murray, did not respond to Zille’s statement but said the provincial government had donated R2.414bn to create integrated and well-located human settlements across the province.
“This is aligned with our aim of creating infrastructure-enabled growth which is essential because investment in social infrastructure will help address apartheid spatial planning by improving basic service delivery, building integrated communities and enabling our residents to live with dignity,” said Murray.
She said the provincial government had provided support through its Department of Social Development, which included psycho-social support and conducting assessments for referrals to the SA Social Security Agency for social relief of distress.
“The premier visited Langa on Tuesday and was devastated by the destruction caused by the fire. Residents there have suffered unimaginable losses, left with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
“The premier is humbled by and thanks the City of Cape Town and stakeholders who have come forward to provide assistance swiftly and decisively,” she said.