PICS | Winter of discontent: ‘We just want decent houses,’ say flood-hit Cape Town residents

An informal settlement in Ethembeni flooded on 14 June 2022 in Khayelitsha.

An informal settlement in Ethembeni flooded on 14 June 2022 in Khayelitsha.
Photo by Gallo Images/Die Burger/Jaco Marais
  • Khayelitsha residents took to the streets this week to protest against lack of proper housing in the area.
  • Locals say they are fed up with having to deal with their homes being flooded every time a cold front brings heavy rain. 
  • Police kept a watchful eye as locals took to the streets.

The City of Cape Town could face increased protest action as residents in flood-prone township areas demand proper housing, vowing to take to the streets as heavy rain wreaked havoc in the Mother City this week.

The most affected informal settlements were Khayelitsha, Langa, Delft, Masiphumelele, Mfuleni and Philippi.

Disgruntled Khayelitsha residents were the first to take to the streets on Youth Day to demand better housing after an intense cold front bringing strong winds and heavy rain had flooded their township.

And with more bad weather on the cards, fears are mounting that more township residents, fed up with the bad weather, will follow suit and take to the streets after about 200 Khayelitsha residents had marched down Pama Street to highlight the plight of the poor continuously at risk due to bad weather lashing the city.

The Cape Town weather office has issued a yellow level 2 warning for disruptive rain and winds which could lead to localised flooding of susceptible informal settlements and low-lying roads and bridges in the Cape Winelands, the western Overberg and the city.

An 80% chance of rain is expected for Saturday and Sunday and the city’s disaster risk management teams said their winter task team will be on standby throughout the weekend.

KHAYELITSHA, SOUTH AFRICA ? JUNE 14: An informal s

It is reported that this is a result of a second day of rainy weather in the Cape Peninsula after a cold front moved over the Cape early Sunday evening.
Gallo Images Photo by Gallo Images/Die Burger/Jaco Marais

Khayelitsha ward councillor Thando Mpengezi told News24 the heavy rain has caused great distress for residents in the past few days and they are desperate for help from the city to provide better housing conditions.

Mpengezi said:

People are angry, their houses are not built to withstand the heavy rain and winds. For years they have been living like this and they just want decent housing or for the city to move them to a piece of land where they can have proper services and not have their homes flooded every time there is bad weather.

Protesters say it is “dehumanising” for people to live in these harsh conditions, with water filling the inside of their homes.

“We shouldn’t be subjected to this. We are all human beings and we also deserve to live in a home which is not going to be flooded with water whenever there is rain in Cape Town. Every year we go through the same thing, our homes get flooded in winter, and then we’re expected to clean the water out, it’s really not nice living like this,” said Thobeka Ntini.

Sakumzi Nyamza said living in Khayelitsha has always been a problem as he feels more needs to be done with service delivery in the area.

“We want decent homes. Service delivery in the area is pathetic. The recent floods destroyed many people’s homes. We are the ones left to clean up the water and make sure our belongings inside are kept safe. We already know more rain is expected and then what? We must go through the same thing and again have water flow into our homes, destroying everything we own, it’s really not okay,” he said.

Babalwa Ncini said even though she managed to clear the water out of her home, residents who live in shacks simply cannot afford to save their homes from rain.

“There will always be rain and we will always have water flow into our homes, but as usual, we cannot rely on the City of Cape Town to help us during these cold winter months, so we have to rely on our neighbours to help us move the water and dirt that flows in,” said Ncini.

The Western Cape police said it was probing a case of public violence following the protest action on Youth Day.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 16: Police and Law

Police and Law Enforcement dispersed protestors in Pama Road in Khayelitsha on 16 June 2022. It is reported that the residents are demanding better service delivery and better housing.
Gallo Images Photo by Gallo Images/Brenton Geach

“No arrests have been made. The investigation continues,” said Sergeant Wesley Twigg.

Meanwhile, Langa residents have already threatened they will mobilise and take to the streets should the city not come up with solutions to assist them with decent housing.

“The slow pace of service delivery in the area is of major concern. The floods that happened earlier this week caused chaos in the area, with houses left flooded and leaving many people very angry,” said ward councillor Thembelani Nyamakazi.

He added that residents in informal settlements suffer the most as a result of heavy rainfall and therefore, should be prioritised by the city.

READ | Parts of Cape Town flooded, left without electricity amid heavy rainfall

“These residents have been living here for a very long time and if they don’t get proper housing soon, then I foresee major protest action taking place.

Cape Town Speaker and PR councillor Felicity Purchase said the Masiphumelele area had seen its fair share of flooding during the past few days, but the city’s disaster management teams have been out in the area assisting where needed.

“There was flash flooding on the sports field and on the wetlands, but we had officials bringing in some soil to prevent the water from piling up.

“There were some people that were trying to drive a protest seeking to cause havoc in the area because the mayor was seen in other areas and not in Masiphumelele, but everything is under control. The problems in this area are negligible compared to what other areas are facing as a result of the flooding,” said Purchase.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 16: Angry taxi driv

Angry taxi drivers and owners cleared Pama Road in Khayelitsha on 16 June 2022.
Gallo Images Photo by Gallo Images/Brenton Geach

ANC councillors said township residents are very frustrated at the moment because some of the housing projects have been rolled over numerous times.

“Our people now have to face another winter in informal settlements and as backyard dwellers. Most of the beneficiaries will also no longer qualify for those houses due to the fact that their salaries have increased,” said councillor Judy-Ann Stevens, acting spokesperson for the ANC caucus in the city council.

Stevens said during the last council meeting they had asked the mayor to intervene and have a look at those housing projects and that most communities also did not get any assistance from the city over the past few days.

READ | Flooding havoc in Cape Town leaves residents stranded

“Joe Slovo in Milnerton did not receive any assistance at all. Our people are sitting in houses that are filled or drained with water and we are on the eve of another cold weekend.  As ANC, we cannot pre-empt whether communities will protest or not so we want to call on the mayor to please intervene before it get[s] to that stage,” she said.

Delft councillor Dineo Masiu said several homes in the area were flooded and in most cases, the flooding was due to residents having ponds on their premises which gathered an overflow of water and sewerage. “There are a number of residents who had complained about sewage blockages in their streets. Many of them have had to pull out materials including tyres, papers and plastic bags to unblock the drains, ” she said.

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