‘Service delivery promises are lies’

2017-07-11 06:00

Following a visit by the Human Rights Commission (HRC), City of Cape Town officials have renewed their commitment to enhance service delivery in ­Masiphumelele.

The site visit on Friday 30 June included City officials, political representatives, community leaders, HRC representatives and activists.

City officials have already increased door-to-door refuse collection from five days a week to seven, designated the area as one of 20 to benefit from the City’s winter readiness programme and cut away reeds at the bottom of the stormwater canals to improve drainage and reduce the risk of flooding, says Xanthea Limberg, Mayco member for informal settlements, water, waste services and energy.

“One of the most salient issues discussed was the management of the four stormwater canals in Masiphumelele. In this regard a technical investigation into the feasibility of diverting polluted low-flow stormwater from the existing Masiphumelele canals into the sewer is ongoing. A pilot project is being undertaken which will form part of the wash house structure and also divert grey water to sewers. Depending on the success of the wash houses, this model may be replicated,” she says.

The cleaning of the stormwater canals continues on an almost daily basis and more frequent cleaning of silt from the stormwater canals is being introduced, Limberg says.

Another suggestion to improve living conditions was the rollout of portable flush toilets.

“The community had previously rejected this [type of ablution], but the leadership indicated that this may now be a feasible ­option.

“Currently residents, especially women and children who feel unsafe using shared toilets at night, make use of night soil containers which are then emptied into the canals, creating a public health risk as the drainage from these canals is in most cases insufficient to deal with the volume of dumped waste,” says Limberg.

The City is also running education programmes on the impact of pollutants entering the stormwater system and the wetlands area. This includes proactive actions that residents can take to minimise the pollution, Limberg says.

The persistent sewage overflows in the Zulu Land section were also discussed during the visit, says Limberg.

“The City has been hamstrung in fixing the problem thus far as there are currently a number of dwellings built over the piping, making it impossible to access the infrastructure for repairs. As such, a number of options were discussed, including the temporary relocation of a few dwellings and the construction of a new sewerage line which will require the closure of one of the main thoroughfares. Community leaders indicated that they could engage with residents in this regard,” she says.

However, the community activist who approached the HRC, Rosemary Milbank, has responded with anger, calling City officials’ responses “lies”.

“Where and what is this plan to enhance service delivery? We ask for it continually but it is not produced,” she says. “Refuse is only collected daily in the formal settlement and not in the informal settlement.”

She has also called into question the City’s winter readiness programme, saying resources were not provided following the severe storm last month.

Milbank adds: “Reeds have been cut at two canal ends of the five, but we have continually been promised that reeds have been dug out manually. This is a lie. Cutting makes the reeds grow thicker and does not allow the sewerage-contaminated storm water to drain away into the wetlands beyond the reed beds.”

She adds that canals are not cleaned on a regular basis and has raised concerns about the health implications of portable toilets being kept inside shacks.

“The community leaders can only engage with the City if they are consulted. The more they are ignored and only a chosen few are consulted, the more the anger will grow. People must come into Masi and see the situation for themselves,” she says.

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