CAPE TOWN - DA Federal Council chairperson Helen Zille’s controversial comments that being poor in Langa was better than being poor in other townships have been slammed as telling of the DA-led local government’s attitude towards poor black people in Cape Town.
More than 700 people were displaced after a fire destroyed more than 300 shacks in Joe Slovo informal settlement at the weekend.
Following the devastating Langa fires, Zille stated in an interview on Radio 702 Tuesday morning, that: “To be poor in Langa in Cape Town is (a) hundred, probably a thousand times better than to be poor in many townships in the rest of the country.”
Langa ward 51 councillor Lwazi Phakade said Zille’s comments showed why Cape Town townships were not getting the services they deserved.
“Zille is an unrepentant racist and the comments that she made exude the way the DA in Cape Town is working because the conditions that people live in Cape Town are worse because the DA does not put effort to make sure that our townships are growing, especially Langa, as the one of the oldest townships in Cape Town.
“Developments are slow in townships; people live in squalor, people live in hostels that were built in 1927. People are complaining about things that the City was supposed to have long fixed. They are living with drainage systems of apartheid times.
“Whenever you drive around Langa, you drive in sewage, and for her to make such a comment, we find it very concerning. Here we are taken as poor people who are better than other poor people and this is a total lie and disregard. There is no better poor person in the country,” said Phakade.
He said the N2 Gateway project, started by Zille during her time as Western Cape premier was in poor condition.
“We are going to hold the DA accountable in the City, in that interview Zille made a statement that the City will provide starter kits for the affected, we demand those starter kits,” he added.
Approached for comment, Zille on Tuesday said that “almost everyone in Langa is within access of all basic services, including education and health care”.
“Many informal settlements around South Africa have no such access,” she said.
“Most of the shacks in Joe Slovo were replaced by formal dwellings during the period that I was premier. We cannot do the last section for several reasons: shacks are below the power lines and so many people moved in that it was impossible to de-densify the final section sufficiently to build formal flats there. Having access to free water, electricity, refuse removal, sewage etc is 1000 times better than not having access at all,” said Zille.
Joe Slovo informal settlement resident Sonwabo Ntshinga said he was not surprised by Zille’s comments and said they were a “true” reflection of her.
“By that I mean she does not care about black people at all. Not long ago, UCT was on fire. Private companies, business people including the City were quick to respond to the fire and donated food, water and blankets.They made sure that more firefighters were deployed to the area, but once it's in the township, they take their time to respond,” said Ntshinga.
EFF provincial spokesperson Andiswa Madikazi said: “We however, are not surprised that a racist like Hellen Zille would utter such careless comments. The people of Langa are residing in congested slums, existing as zones of non-beings without proper infrastructure, electricity, piped water and sanitation like the rest of the country. It can only be a racist and anti-poor leader who can tell people that just lost their homes and belongings that their suffering is nothing compared to the rest of the country.”
Good Party secretary Brett Herron said, Zille, by refusing to accept the constitutional obligation to unstitch the apartheid Group Areas Act, while under-servicing informal settlements to discourage the migration of new work seekers to the region, the provincial government and City directly place the lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable residents at unconscionable risk of disaster.
“Here, living conditions are extremely dire with shockingly insufficient sanitation and water services. Residents still use the bucket system, and fire prevention or retardant measures don’t exist. The trouble is, City and provincial authorities have no policy and no plan to address the issue of residents of informal settlements who don’t qualify for free houses - not in Joe Slovo or any of the other diabolical shack-land ghettoes.”