Residents of Masiphumelele described their living conditions as “inhumane” during a meeting with public protector, advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane and members of the Human Rights Commission at the community hall in the area on Friday May 5.
Resident Debbie Ellis said the area the City of Cape Town called the “wetlands” lacked basic public services and housing and that residents living there, were living in inhumane conditions. Ms Ellis called for the release of City land, which, she said, was being kept from residents.
Other issues tabled at the meeting included the lack of toilet facilities and sewage removal, ex-miners’ pensions not being paid out, poor service delivery, the lack of sports facilities and development and problems residents experienced with public services like the clinic and public protector’s office.
Resident Joseph Mumzvenga said he had filed a complaint against the public protector’s office in Cape Town, on June 14 last year, and wanted feedback on his case. “My number has called your office so many times, you can check. I am poor and from this area. I don’t have money. You lose money and patience when you call the office and wait on the phone. They took four months to locate my file and eventually said it was at their head office.
“I suspect collusion with government and private companies at the expense of the people. My issue is also with SAPS. If a black person calls, they will take an hour to get here. If another race calls them, they take two seconds to get to them. The perception we have is that black lives don’t matter,” said Mr Mumzvenga.
Residents clapped and agreed with Mr Mumzvenga, adding that they were discriminated against at the community clinic if it became known that they were HIV-positive. Elaborating on this, a resident at the meeting explained that people with HIV/Aids were directed to a consultation room called Room B. Once they head towards this room for consultation, their status becomes known to others and they’re treated differently by staff, the resident said.
Ms Mkhwebane said that she was happy that people were airing their grievances and committed to visiting the “wetlands” and investigating the issues of land, housing and the problems with SAPS which had been raised. She added that she felt some by-laws were destroying people as those who try and find a place to stay have their homes broken down by law enforcement officers – who also prevented children from entertaining crowds with cultural dances in Simon’s Town. “Other issues such as racism in Cape Town sometimes are subtle for us to determine, but the Human Rights Commission can investigate these claims,” said Ms Mkhwebane.
Human Rights Commissioner advocate André Gaum said we lived in “difficult times” and that serious questions were being raised about governance and possible state capture.