Sweet Home residents wont move to the “small” new houses

Sweet Home new houses under construction. Pic by Bernard Chiguvare

Sweet Home Farm shack dwellers are not prepared to move to new houses built by the City of Cape Town. They say the houses are very small and there is no enough space for children to play.

Philippi, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Sweet Home Farm shack dwellers are not prepared to move to new houses built by the City of Cape Town. They say the houses are very small and there is no enough space for children to play. According to a Community Risk Assessment Report by the University of Cape Town (UCT, 2009) Sweet Home Farm was a dumping ground for builders’ rubble.

Community members told Elitsha that people started moving into the area in 1992. Some of the occupants are former backyard dwellers from Philippi.

It is not known how many people stay in Sweet Home Farm. In 2003 the City of Cape Town estimated that 7,045 people were staying in the area. Under the Informal Settlements Programme, approximately 4,000 households in Cape Town are being targeted for improved service delivery according to Mayor Patricia de Lille in her budget speech in May this year.

Elitsha caught up with a family that was among the first to stay in Sweet Home Farm and is a beneficiary in line for one of the new houses.

“I can’t move from shack to a box. Those houses are like a box. The rooms are very small. There is no enough space for me my husband three children and four grandchildren,” says Zukiswa Mrubata who moved with her family to Sweet Home Farm in 1993.

Mrubata (50) currently stays in a shack divided into five rooms.

“We are not going to have enough space in the new houses,” says Mrubata. She says children need places to mix and play. The new houses do not have that space. Her children children are old enough to stay alone but they are not working.

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Since 1993, she has acquired a lot of furniture that cannot fit in the two-roomed house. She has plans to buy a car but has since shelved the idea.

“I cannot buy the car now. Where will I park it? This will give me a challenge,” she says.

Mrubata works as a domestic worker in Mowbray. She uses public transport to commute to and from work. “You see its just some few minutes walking from this place to the bus stop. Now it [the new house] means I will be walking longer distance.”

Mrubata says the City should not just come and dictate to the community how the houses should be constructed.

“We should have a say in whatever is taking place in our community. They should have called a meeting with us. Now they have already started putting up structures; we wonder who is going to accept such small rooms,” she says.

In addition, Mrubata is doubtful of the quality of the brick used to build the houses.

“The idea of moving us into brick houses was noble but the quality of bricks is poor. This is my first time to see this type of brick. Why does the City experiment with us?” she asks.

Meanwhile Sandiso Mali, the chairperson of the South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO) branch in Philippi, who is also a resident of Sweet Home Farm, says, “Is this what the government meant in the Constitution; providing better houses for all. Those houses are a disgrace to the government.”

According to Mali, the City did not consult residents first.

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“The City was supposed to show us three sample houses, then the community could choose the type they wanted. We were surprised to see contractors putting up structures without community input. It is in a way forcing families to live in crowded conditions.”

The community complains that the houses being built are too small. Pic by Bernard Chiguvare

In response to the poor quality of houses and the lack of proper consultation, the Mayoral Committee Member for Area South, Councillor Eddie Andrews, said that the housing is provided via the Emergency Housing Programme and is not a formal BNG-type housing project. He says that the housing typology was communicated and illustrated in a general community meeting as well as a Project Steering Committee meeting. Andrews did admit that “the City was not able to provide a sample house prior to the contractor being on site, but this is being done now”.

On the issue of the bricks, the City of Cape Town argued that they are making use of innovative green technology, which differs from the conventional-type building blocks. “The product meets the necessary building standards and a structural engineer is part of the construction process to ensure that all structural requirements are met,” said Councillor Andrews.

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About Bernard Chiguvare 19 Articles
Originally from Zimbabwe and since 2014 I been contributing to different publications in South Africa. My area of focus as a reporter is on the rights of vulnerable communities and foreign nationals in any country.