Hout Bay fire victims say they will not be moved

Victims of last year's devastating Hout Bay blaze have been living in caves in the nearby mountains, in makeshift structures and fire-damaged shacks.

Despite this, they refuse to move in to 3m x 3m structures in temporary relocation sites, saying that the structures are "not even fit for sardines".

While the majority, who called the fire site home, moved to a nearby temporary relocation area established for the rebuilding of Dontse Yakhe, Shooting Range and Ebhayi in Imizamo Yethu, many have chosen to rebuild their shacks on the fire-ravaged land.

Now, between 150 and 200 households face eviction because they have re-erected their shacks on a section planned for an arterial road.

READ: Nearly 100 homes destroyed in Hout Bay fire

On Monday, households living on erven earmarked for the establishment of Road One, protested for the provision of electricity, water and sanitation, saying they were living in undignified and inhumane conditions.

The mountainside land they are occupying is earmarked for the road, which forms part of super-blocking - a process which would allow for the rebuilding of smaller structures, the construction of roads to provide vehicle access, the establishment of three new substations to electrify the vicinity, and the provision of sanitation.

It would also allow for spaces of about 0.5m between homes, to prevent a fire from spreading and from destroying homes as quickly in the densely-populated community.

Reconstructed homes would have to be limited to 3m x 3m to accommodate this, or 6m x 6m for larger families.

Most fire victims had moved to the local temporary relocation area (TRA) next to the local clinic, where they will live until the City of Cape Town's project has been completed.

Dontse Yakhe residents on Monday protested for basic services. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

 

However, this has stalled as the council seeks their eviction of those built of land earmarked for Road One.

Pamela Sofika is living in the shack she had rebuilt using what she could salvage from her burnt-out home.

She declined to live in the 3m x 3m temporary structures provided by the City for the fire victims, who were initially housed in tents. 

She described the structure provided as a "tin"

"I have two grown children and a grandchild with me. No way will I go there. How would we live?"

Dontse Yakhe residents on Monday protested for basic services. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

 

Sofika, who has lived in Imizamo Yethu for 30 years, said she feared there would be nothing temporary about their short-term homes.

"It's an insult to stay in a 3m x 3m structure. I am a South African and I have rights. I would never limit myself to living like that. What they are offering is not uplifting or dignifying.

"I demand to live here. In 1990 we were moved here, to the mountain, from different squatter camps. If we move now, they must put us in formal housing. It's long overdue."

Demands

According to the memorandum handed over to ward councillor Rob Quintas and proportional representative councillor Bheki Hadebe, the residents are demanding:

  • a fortnightly engagement between the City and the Imizamo Yethu Informal Settlement Block Committee Council, so that residents' grievances are discussed;
  • a detailed plan for the reinstatement of electricity by the end of April;
  • that residents be allowed to rebuild their homes without fear of demolition and court interdicts;
  • the immediate provision of adequate sanitation; and
  • that the upgrade be done in a collaborative manner, with input from the residents who live there.

Quintas, who accepted the memorandum, said it was hoped that a compromise could be reached to allow for the construction of Road One to "unlock the many challenges and obstacles in terms of electricity, water and sanitation".

He said it was hoped that 150 to 200 households could be relocated to serviced sites within Hout Bay so that the families could remain close to their loved ones and work.

"If we are successful in the eviction process, we are able to relocate them onto serviced sites with access to electricity, water and sanitation and then use the available space to [do] the bulk work, which is Road One," he said.

"Road One will be a brand new road and become an arterial which will allow for access for service vehicles, from fire and safety to our large sanitation and garbage collection trucks, and will make an incredible difference in terms of the quality of life for the people of Imizamo Yethu."

The road reserves and walkways would also act as a cover for underground electrical cabling, which is safer in terms of tampering, as well as sewer lines for improved sanitation.

It was hoped that the process would take two years if there are no "massive stumbling blocks", Quintas said.

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