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Gugulethu man in a tug of war with CoCT as his house ‘crumbles’

Gugulethu home owner Mzwandile Mvumvu and the City of Cape Town are embroiled in a fight. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA).

Gugulethu home owner Mzwandile Mvumvu and the City of Cape Town are embroiled in a fight. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA).

Published May 15, 2022

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A GUGULETHU pensioner’s house has fallen into disrepair as a dispute with the City of Cape Town over a wall built on a sewer pipe has stretched into an eight-year battle.

Having built his home in the late 1990s, Mzwandile Mvumvu said he was broken-hearted to see the12-room house crumbling to a point where it might be unsafe for him and his family to live in.

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His problems began in 2014 when frequent blockages to the pipe system in front of his house required the City to repair the issue which required bulldozing his wall with no guarantee it would be rebuilt.

The City claims the cause of the blockage was the construction of the wall on top of the municipal sewerage pipes and the toilets that were illegally connected to the sewer system.

“The City initiated a project in 2014 to install an additional sewer pipeline in the road to overcome these problems and reduce the load on the existing mid-block sewer,” said Mayco member for Water and Sanitation, Zahid Badroodien.

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He confirmed that the owner of the property alleged afterwards that his house had developed cracks caused by the City’s repair project. The City then directed Mvumvu to the contractor, who investigated and later denied claims that the work led to the structural damage.

Now the Mvumvu family home has a sinkhole in front of the gate, the garage has a large crack on the floor and a wall is near collapsing, as well as various other cracks throughout the house.

Mvumvu said the hole used to be filled with overflowing sewage water until the municipality installed a machine to pump out the water three months ago.

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But the 70-year-old insists the damage to his garage occurred as a result of the sewage that has been in the hole in the past eight years.

A Gugulethu man fears his house will fall collapse around him as a fight between him and the City of Cape Town halts service delivery. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA).

“The damage is on the house and my garage has collapsed. And it is falling by the day and the cracks on the house are widening, as the soil is weak due to the sewage that was there.

“We are living in fear because these cracks are all over the house. It can fall at any time and we have nowhere else to go. If the municipality decides to remove us here, then they must place us somewhere else.

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“They came last month and discussed the future of the house and some of them said the house needs to fall down (but) nothing tangible was said. There were debates about the pipe in front of the gate, saying if they fix it the house will fall down. The cracks are worsening,” he said.

But Badroodien argued that they cannot fix the broken pipe in front of the property as the owner does not want his wall removed.

“Our emergency contractor (was) not able to carry out repairs without the illegal wall being removed, but the owner of the house insisted that the wall would not be touched until the City’s Insurance Department could confirm that they would pay for the reconstruction of the wall,” he said.

He further said the City’s Water Pollution Control was trying to enforce municipal by-laws in the area.

Conflict between City of Cape Town and property owner delaying service delivery in Gugulethu. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA).

Street committee secretary, Fezeka Ndamane said the machine was installed after the community protested over the overflowing sewage in their area.

Ndamane said the City’s failure to fix the broken pipe and hole has had a negative impact on the community.

“We protested until they put the machine next door. If the machine is removed, there will be blockage (once again),” she said.

She said the machine itself raised the ire of some the neighbours who complained about the noise level.

Thenjani Mofoti, 85, who is a treasurer of the community organisation Abemi Base Kapa, said attempts to mediate between the City and the home owner were frustrated by the fact that new people showed up for talks each time.

“They came here three times and they brought different representatives at all times. The first came here about two months ago and there were about seven of them. The second set came again a month later. Each and every time when they come, we need to start from scratch and explain to them what happened.This house can fall down any time,” he said.

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