More rain and cold on the way, Cape Town shack dwellers warned

2015-06-25 13:15
A view of rain clouds over Table Mountain from Gugulethu in Cape Town. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

A view of rain clouds over Table Mountain from Gugulethu in Cape Town. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Cape Town - Grace Gwada looks from the door of her Gugulethu shack towards the clouds on Table Mountain.

“More rain is coming,” she predicts. “When the clouds look dark and angry, you can expect a heavy downpour. But it looks like the worst is over.”

A cold front passed over the Mother City on Tuesday and Wednesday, and while there was less rain than expected, officials are still monitoring the informal settlements for flooding and mudslides, says mayoral committee member for human settlements Benedicta van Minnen.

She warns that more rain is expected over the weekend and advised locals, especially those living in shacks, to keep warm.

Gwada has been living in the township for 12 years and insists her “internal weather service” has helped to protect her and her family from the elements in winter.

'You shiver so much'

On Monday, the unemployed mother of four spent the day stuffing stockings with clothes, which she then covered with plastic. These are placed at the door of her home as well as around the perimeter where wind and water could seep in.

“When I see the storm clouds forming, my children come in before the sun goes down. The doors are closed and nothing is opened until the children leave for school the next day,” she says.

To warm her modest home, she turns on a two plate stove – of which only one element works - and keeps it burning for about 30 minutes.

“The children keep their hands warm over it and it provides some heat, though not a lot.

“People think the rain is the worst thing about living in a shack. But I can live with the water. It is the cold that gets to you. You shiver so much, it’s as if you feel it in your bones," she says with a shiver.

'I sleep with my bucket next to my pillow'

“But my favourite thing about winter is lying in bed with my husband and my children. While it’s mostly to keep warm, there’s nothing as nice as having your children lay in your arms.

“Even my teenage son who acts like he’s big comes to lie with mommy when it’s cold!” she says with a laugh.

But while sporadic storms have sent shack dwellers scurrying to batten down the hatches, the end of July and much of August is traditionally a nightmare in the townships, 64-year-old Andile Ntsiki tells News24.

“Then I sleep with my bucket next to my pillow,” he says.

Some years ago, the widower was among a group of people who was forced by floods to evacuate their shacks.

“When I came back home, my house had been ransacked,” Ntsiki recalls.

“Everything, from my kettle to my socks, had been stolen. There are some scoundrels who prey on people, even when they are down and out.”

‘This my place’

One year ago, part of his home collapsed in gale force winds, he adds.

“But I rather stay put than leave my home. I don’t care what anyone says about where I live. This is my place.

“I don’t ask government for anything. I have all that I need.

"But if President Jacob Zuma or Premier Helen Zille wants to make me happy, I would like a big, industrial heater. I have arthritis and my feet and hands get very cold in winter.”

On Wednesday, Disaster Risk Management reported that two sections of Khayelitsha were flooded, with 190 structures damaged and almost 800 people affected.

Read more on:    cape town  |  weather  |  floods

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