City told to do job

2017-02-07 06:02

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Provincial government has taken the City of Cape Town to task over poor service delivery in Masiphumelele.

The City has broken environmental law in Masiphumelele, it has been found (“City needs to clean up”,, 30 January).

During an investigation into pollution in the township, a site inspection by the department on Thursday 19 January found the City had failed to provide adequate ablution, washing and storm water management and solid waste management practices in Masiphumelele, the directive states.

The inspection was done after community workers complained to the provincial health department of contaminated water in the township’s canals. Shacks are situated directly alongside the canals and residents cross them using improvised bridges made of planks. When the water levels are low, residents walk through the sludge and children play in the mud, it was complained.

In a directive issued by the Department of Environmental Affairs, signed on Friday 20 January, the City was found to have caused “significant pollution and/or degradation to the environment, which constitutes a significant danger to the health and wellbeing” of Masiphumelele residents.

The directive ordered the City to undertake a thorough and effective cleanup, remove refuse and carry out maintenance of toilets, washing facilities, canals and other infrastructure. The directive also ordered a progress report.

Dr Jo Barnes, a community health specialist at Stellenbosch University , says the City has failed in a number of service areas.

According to Barnes, the directive covers all the basic services the City is legally contracted to carry out, and orders them to improve performance on all of them.

Although working in Masiphumelele – and most other informal settlements – can be very difficult, explains Barnes, as there are factions in the community jostling for power, there are far too few toilets and water stands for the residents, with as many as 30 or 40 people using one toilet.

Subcouncil chairperson Felicity Purchase says “major cleaning” has been taking place. There are also plans for a pilot project to install new ablution blocks in March. “The problem is overcrowding and vandalism. When we were requested to put fencing to protect the wetland, the activists objected. We will continue to fix toilets regularly as brought to our attention but the community members also need to do their part and stop the theft of our taps and pipes. They need to take ownership and responsibility,” she says.

Both the community and the municipality contribute to the “vicious spiral”, says Barnes. “Municipalities will attribute all the breakages to vandalism and the community will attribute all the breakages to poor maintenance. It’s neither black nor white. There is both vandalism and breakages from overuse,” she says.

Poor service delivery can have a serious health impact, Barnes cautions, with residents susceptible to diarrhoea and eye, ear and skin infections. This places a burden on the healthcare system, she adds.

“One must not forget these are poor people who often have a poor diet and are malnourished. This makes them more vulnerable to illness,” she says.
Xanthea Limberg, Mayco member for informal settlements, water and waste services and energy, says only that “the City will be responding directly to the Western Cape government regarding the directive”.


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