Victory for Masi community

Rosemary Milbank, Fish Hoek

After a short walkabout with the Public Protector and the Human Rights Commissioner in Masiphumelele last week, Mayor Patricia de Lille announced that the very controversial “fire station complex” (which was not just to be a fire station as the public had been misled to believe) plan has changed and that “the City is reducing the imprint of the fire station to make 87% of the land available for high-density formal housing”, (“Fire station uproar”, Echo, August 31).

This is a huge victory for the community of Masiphumelele who were not consulted about the fire station complex and which resulted in enormous anger when they realised that they were to be denied the GAP

housing for which the City originally bought the land in 2014.

Ms De Lille also announced that the
City plans to “reapply” for the development of the remainder of Erf 5131 -the large area that the community of Masiphumelele invaded the day before the Argus Cycle Tour.

Xanthea Limburg (mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy) promised to have a new Environmental Impact Assessment within six months of the invasion but the community is still waiting for news of developments seven months later.

The community of Masiphumelele has expressed much anger regarding the sudden appearance of the Public Protector, the Human Rights Commissioner and the mayor and her entourage last week as none of the community leaders or the community were advised by the City of Cape Town that the event would take place.

Only a community member who is not an elected community leader but who is
known to be favoured
by ward councillor Felicity Purchase was present.

When news of the walkabout reached community leader Dumsani Nhlapo, he and another community leader rushed to the scene and were able to express their anger and concerns.

This, however, ended when Mr De Lille suddenly announced that she was “leaving now to go to a funeral” and then she added: “I am not listening to any more of this crap!”

The mayor refused to see the terrible sewage contaminated canals and the horrific toilet situations between the five stormwater canals that are blocked by reeds and became very angry when I asked why she was denying and avoiding the real situation.

Her continual blaming of the community for the present situation which is the result of years of deliberate neglect and denial by the ward councillor and the City of Cape Town is seen as insulting their dignity and intelligence by the community of Masiphumelele.

Her reply to the community leaders’ anger regarding the apartheid-style “pota pota” was that the community must show the City where they can put toilets.

The community and activists demand that the City of Cape Town ceases trying to persuade the public that Masiphumelele has a population of dirty people whose only problem is litter and dumped refuse.

The lack of toilets in the informal area (we have 15 000 people who only have 260 toilets – more than 100 people to one toilet) is the cause of people using buckets in their homes and then dumping the raw sewage in the canals because there is nowhere else to dump it is the real problem.

The City has stated that they intend building wash houses over the canals – one to each canal – which comprise of four toilets, two showers and four wash basins. This will cost the tax payer millions and will not alleviate the problem at all.

The only solution is to evacuate the community in the informal settlement to either Solole or
Erf 5131 immediately, before we have serious outbreaks of cholera, typhoid or rat-borne diseases in Masiphumelele and of course in surrounding areas.

* Spokesperson for the mayor, Zara Nicholson confirmed that the mayor had to attend a funeral but said the mayor answered as many questions as she could at the time, indicating that the ward councillor was also present to answer questions after the mayor had left.

Ms Nicholson said there are many obstacles to providing services in Masiphumelele for a variety of structural reasons. Residents settled on the wetland area despite the legal impediments to installing electricity and sanitation infrastructure there, and the City has been in the process of systematically remedying this situation for many years.

She said despite providing refuse collection seven days a week and litter pick-ups on a near-daily basis, high levels of littering and illegal dumping still takes place and the area does not stay clean for long.

“Despite the challenges the City is committed to finding sustainable and integrated solutions to improve the living conditions of the community through enhanced service delivery,” she said.