Dispute over Imizamo Yethu's redesign

2017-04-14 12:05
Imizamo Yethu. (Photo: Robin Thuynsma)

Imizamo Yethu. (Photo: Robin Thuynsma)

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Cape Town - One month after the large fire in Imizamo Yethu, there are still unresolved disputes between the City of Cape Town and residents about the redesign of the settlement.

The city proposed to reblock the area after the large fire of March 11 left thousands homeless. Some residents, mostly those who were renting, had been moved to tents.

Most of the residents from a section called Shooting Range opposed the reblocking, because of concerns of how long they would be left homeless, GroundUp reported.

Reblocking means reconstructing the area with more space between the shacks so emergency services could gain access, and to reduce the likelihood of fires spreading.

Residents opposed to the reblocking began rebuilding their shacks, so the city obtained a court interdict on March 19 against anyone who continued to erect structures.

Reblocking began in an area called Mandela Park. But Shooting Range residents claimed the city had no proper plans for them and they refused to stay in the tents. They intended to oppose the city’s interdict.


Mayor Patricia de Lille and some community leaders briefed media in Imizamo Yethu on Wednesday. She said the city had written to both the provincial and national governments to have the settlement declared a disaster area. The application was being considered and processed, she said.

The city had provided various timeframes on how long the reblocking would take.

“The city was ambitious in the thinking that [reblocking] would be completed in such a short space of time. The terrain is mountainous and therefore very difficult to build on,” she said.

De Lille said it would take about three months for the city to develop the area and that comfortable living arrangements had to be made to accommodate the residents for that time. Fifty-three families had already been moved to temporary relocation areas and more would continue to be moved in the next few days.

The reblocking project had cost the city approximately R92m. Additionally, installation of electricity would cost R44m.

Shooting Range community leader, Pamela Sofika, said she was not surprised that the city only called those residents who agreed with it.

“Who are those community leaders? Who are they representing? Because we were not invited and we represent the majority of the fire-affected people,” she said.

“We have registered over 1 200 residents who are saying no to the city’s plans. They want to move people from a shack to another shack then back to a shack. Where is development in that?”

They had asked the city for temporary houses and were told there was no money.

'We know our rights'

Another resident, Nolubabalo Jako, said there would be no progress if the city continued to disregard residents’ concerns.

“We might not be educated, but we know our rights and we know that we can have a say on how we want to live. They cannot decide for us and force us to do things that we do not want,” said Jako.

They were already unhappy with what they were seeing in the area that was being reblocked.

Their concerns were having to stay in tents during winters, and that their homes would be smaller after reblocking.

One of the recommendations the residents had made to the city was to wait until a housing development currently underway in Imizamo Yethu was finished, and then move the more than 900 beneficiaries from the fire-affected area into the new development.

This would open more space for the reblocking to be done, they argued.

Read more on:    cape town  |  housing  |  service delivery  |  local government

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