Masi residents fear sewage flood

One of the canals where children play in Masiphumelele which is filled with sewage and dirt.

Jumping over overflowing sewage covering the damp ground along the toilet section in Z section in Masiphumelele, children narrowly escape falling into a canal filled with faeces to reach the only tap in the vicinity.

This contaminated water then flows into the nearest stormwater canal where night buckets of sewage are thrown because of the lack of drains in the area, and the stench of decay, sewage and waste hangs in the air near the tap and along the canal.

Each toilet is on average used by 100 people and residents fear that the coming winter rainfall will flood the area, spreading the waste.

“They don’t clean the toilets if we don’t complain. We’ve been reporting on the issue for a year now. (Mayco member) Xanthea Limberg says it is being cleaned once a day and she said they’re fixed as soon as they’re broken. This is a lie,” said Masiphumelele Development Forum (MDF) treasurer, Dumsani Nhlapo.

“People are living like pigs in the wetlands. We’re complaining and crying for the City to at least move people from the wetlands. They’re living in a health hazard area. We don’t want to put people in danger,” said Mr Nhlapo.

Mr Nhlapo brought public protector advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane to what is called E section in Masiphumelele on Friday May 5 to show her the conditions many people are faced with on a daily basis near the toilets and the canals (“Masi residents meet with public protector”, Echo, May 11).

Mr Nhlapo, said Ms Mkhwebane was shocked at the state of the area and urged residents to launch complaints about the area not being serviced with her office. She also stated that if “rules” that shouldn’t be rules exist, then they should be changed to allow people to be moved to a safe environment..

“She said that SANParks land should be given to people as people are more important than SANParks. “We want the interdict which does not allow people to use land at erf 5131. “People are becoming angry and impatient. Winter is coming and the canals are blocked and it will flood,” said Mr Nhlapo.

The MDF met with City officials and Ward 69 councillor Felicity Purchase earlier this year to discuss concerns they faced with the toilets and moving residents onto erf 5131, to be reversed.

The MDF was instructed to elect representatives to represent their needs. However, they said, Ms Purchase refused to recognise and work with them.

Ms Purchase, however, said she and the City worked with 50 organisations in Masi, including the MDF, who were asked to elect a couple of representatives formally and indicate their support base because the MDF claimed to represent the entire Masi but Ms Purchase said she did not believe this to be true.

“At the meeting they were shown the court interdict prohibiting illegal occupation of land in the area and agreed on a protocol for interaction with the City. Within two weeks they turned a report back meeting the City held in Masi into a volatile hostage situation, inciting further invasions and also tried to prevent the Cape Town Cycle Tour from taking place via protest action.”

“(They threatened) malicious damage to City property, burning tyres on the roads and generally causing mayhem, trying to extort R50 from people going to work to fund their cause. The vast majority of Masi residents were angry with this action. There is a Masi cycle team who most residents support. There is now a situation of bad faith,” said Ms Puchase.

She said the City was now appointing a mediator to assist with negotiations with the Masi community organisations. She said where the toilets were concerned, teams were in the area to clean and fix toilets and taps and she was aware that they are left in appalling conditions all the time.

“We have offered the residents portable flush toilets so that they can have their own toilets, which other areas in Masi have received, but as yet there is pressure from some to not have this service. The canals have been cleaned but it is wrong to assume cutting the reeds will resolve the problem of flooding.

“Erf 5131 was purchased by the City for potential development. The City has already built the sports fields and is in the process of delivering houses on a portion of this land,” said Ms Purchase.

Ms Limberg, said the City was working hard to improve the living conditions of residents in Masiphumelele and said that R939 309 had been spent on Masiphumelele since March this year on services such as litter and sludge re-
moval.

“ A jet machine was sent to Masiphumelele and the toilets were attended to on Wednesday May 10 and Thursday May 11. All toilets are cleaned on a daily basis by janitors but the toilets blocked by sewage are used often after the blockage has been cleared.

“The team dispatched confirmed that the toilets were attended to. The reeds beyond the ends of the canals have been dug out by manual labour for approximately 15m beyond the ends of the canal which will help the water to drain away. This will be done again shortly before the arrival of the winter rains,” said Ms Limberg.

Ms Limberg said Masiphumelele had been identified as one of the areas in Cape Town where the City’s Winter Readiness Programme would be rolled out and said the City had developed a working plan to enhance service delivery in the area.

“The City is establishing a joint forum for residents of Masiphumelele to interact with us. A neutral mediator who will be in touch with all leadership structures and organisations in Masiphumelele shortly.

“We ask residents to please not dump inappropriate things into the canals and to place litter in bins and blue bags provided. Living conditions will only improve if we all, residents, leadership and the City, work together as a team,” said Ms Limberg.

The Echo approached the office of the public protector for comment and senior communications officer for the office of the public protector, Oupa Segalwe, confirmed that the statements residents claimed were made by Ms Mkhwebane’s were
true.

“Some members of the public brought to her attention the health hazard posed by the stench coming from the sewage that passes through the settlement. After the event she went on to inspect the area and saw for herself the squalour that the people there live in.

“She was saddened by what she saw and invited the community to lodge complaints in writing with her office, undertaking to look into them as a matter of urgency,” said Mr Segalwe.

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