Joe Slovo residents demand basic services

A burnt building of the Joe Slovo Towship clinic near Milnerton after protesting residents torched it with a community hall and MyCiti bus.Photo by Mandla Mnyakama
Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Informal settlement residents from Joe Slovo Township near Milnerton have demanded that City of Cape Town urgently provide them with basic services such as flush toilets and electricity. They also pleaded with the municipality to allow them to settle in vacant land nearby to relieve overcrowding in the densely populated settlements, and to install more communal water taps.

The municipality’s Anti Land Invasion Unit evicted a large number of informal settlement residents and backyard dwellers from RDP homes in the area after they occupied the land with shacks. The plot was left open after the removal of prefab structures previously used for the Sinenjongo Secondary School which relocated to a new plot in the same neighbourhood last year.

The municipality recently removed the structures after community leaders attempted to use them for a makeshift primary school to accommodate learners who could not find spaces in the local schools.

Elitsha discovered that the area consists of a large population of informal settlement residents who live in shacks that have been densely constructed in the small pockets of land between and adjacent to RDP homes. The lack of open land within the eight local informal settlements caused shack owners to extend their homes by erecting double-storey structures on top of their existing shacks to accommodate their extended families.

Mtshini Wam informal settlement became the only area with electricity, flush toilets and several water taps.

The seven others such as Bhekela, Damasko, Ekuphumleni, Kuyasa, Marikana,  Nkanini and Siyahlala remained underdeveloped with only one or two communal water taps available to serve over two thousand people and no toilets.

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Residents criticized the municipality for making empty promises when they demanded basic services from it.

Akhona Ntweni (29) who occupied a one-roomed shack in Marikana with her two-year-old girl and four other relatives five years ago said as low income earners they could not afford to rent flats.

“We like to live in here and the authorities have just got to comply with our demands and let us use the open space immediately, especially electricity and toilets. Those are the necessary basic services we require in our everyday lives.

“We rely on the RDP owners for toilet access and are compelled to relieve ourselves in buckets and plastic bags, and dump that in the stormwater drains when the RDP owners decline to allow us into their toilets.

“Electricity also becomes a killer because of the heavy monthly R300 to R400 amounts we pay to the RDP home owners where we connected our electric cables, but we need it to prevent deadly shackfires from the usage of paraffin stoves,”said Ntweni.

Flora Mini (74) crams a one-roomed shack with seven children and grandchildren. “All our homes are overcrowded because we lack space. I usually wait outside the one-roomed shack I occupy when one of the old children bathes until she’s finished. They do the same when it is my turn to wash because that shack is very small.

 “The authorities could allow us to occupy the open space with shacks so we can live much safer,” said Mini. She said she wishes to extend her shack into two rooms but she lacks space and was still investigating an option of extending her home with a double storey to create more space for the children.

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A view of the Bhekela Informal Settlement on of the densely populated informal settlement at Joe Slovo near Milnerton. Photo by Mandla Mnyakama

The City of Cape Town has condemned the  violence and complained that it had undermined and reversed the municipality’s progress in creating a more inclusive and accessible city. Brett Herron, mayoral Committee Member for transport and Urban Development said that “there is no excuse or justification for this criminal behaviour and violence that we have seen in Joe Slovo and the deliberate destruction of City property. I want to remind those responsible that the City’s financial resources are limited – the deliberate destruction of assets affects the lower-income households the most. Every cent that we now have to spend on replacing these assets could have been allocated to improving services to residents. Destroying what has already been achieved deprives us all of improved access to jobs and opportunities, schools and clinics, and other services,”he said.

He estimated the total cost of one of the MyCiti buses to be approximately R3,5 million and the bus shelter which was also damaged to be about R130 000.

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