City of Cape Town officials and political representatives visited Masiphumelele on Friday, June 30.
They were accompanied by community leaders, representatives from the Human Rights Commission and activists.
The visit was to address the issues raised by residents, including looking at the realities of the lack of sanitation, the health risks this poses, overcrowding, unsanitary stormwater canals, the lack of structural development, and housing issues.
Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy, said the City of Cape Town has developed a plan to enhance service delivery in the area.
She said they have spend nearly R1 million since March this year.
Door-to-door refuse collection has been increased from five days a week to seven, the area was one of 20 to benefit from the Winter Readiness Programme, and reeds at the bottom of the stormwater canals have been cut away to improve drainage and reduce the risk of flooding.
The management of the four stormwater canals in Masiphumelele was also discussed.
Ms Limberg said a technical investigation into the feasibility of diverting polluted low-flow stormwater from the existing Masiphumelele canals into the sewer is ongoing.
A pilot project is being undertaken which will form part of the wash house structure and also divert grey water to sewers. The cleaning of the stormwater canals continues on an almost daily basis. A combination of contractors and Expanded Public Works Programme workers are performing cleaning operations, the City said.
There was a turnaround in opinion on the portable flushable toilets previously offered by the City but rejected by the community leaders.
However, the leadership indicated that this may now be a feasible option. The portable flush toilets were suggested as a way to improve the condition of stormwater canals and reduce pressure on the toilets in the area. These toilets can be kept in the home and will be emptied regularly by the City.
“At the moment, residents, especially women and children who feel unsafe using shared toilets at night, make use of night soil containers which are then emptied into the canals, creating a public health risk as the drainage from these canals is in most cases insufficient to deal with the volume of dumped waste,” Ms Limberg said.
She said the City is optimistic that continued direct engagement with the community, coupled with the intensive roll-out of services, will continue to foster the trust necessary for them to start working more effectively as a team.
“There is a legacy of distrust between these residents and previous administrations that has made it hard for the City to provide services, and we are committed to doing what is necessary to change the tone and move forward in a new direction,” she said.
“Hopefully the newfound willingness to engage on the issue of portable flush toilets indicates that progress is being made in this regard,” she said.
The City is also running education programmes regarding the impact of pollutants entering the stormwater system and the wetlands area.
In addition to consultation around the canals, persistent sewage overflows in the Zulu Land section were discussed. “The City has been hamstrung in fixing the problem so far, as there are currently a number of dwellings built over the piping, making it impossible to access the infrastructure for repairs,” she said.
A number of options were discussed, including the temporary relocation of a few dwellings and the construction of a new sewerage line which will require the closure of one of the main thoroughfares. Community leaders present said that they could engage with residents in this regard.
“We are thankful to the community members who accompanied us on the visit and to those community leaders who, despite challenging conditions, are able to engage with the City with the bigger picture in mind. If we are to continue to make progress possible, it will require patience, understanding, commitment, sensitivity and hard work from all parties – all of which was displayed during our engagements yesterday,” said Ms Limberg.
Community leader Tshepo Moletsane said he was in Johannesburg and could not respond.
The False Bay Echo also sent queries to community leader Brian Nompunga who unfortunately had not responded by the time of going to press.