When will government start caring?

2012-02-20 08:03

It was a sweltering, albeit beautiful weekend in the Mother City. On days like those many flock to the beaches with their families – and food – to cool off. Others find that staying indoors with the windows and doors shut, and curtains drawn, is an ideal way to ward off the heat. Either way we survive in summer – and in the icy winter months.

However, the same cannot be said for the thousands of people living at the Symphony Way Temporary Relocation Area (TRA) in Delft, better known as Blikkiesdorp. Instead, children and adults are dying like flies. It doesn’t surprise me, seeing the atrocious conditions they were dumped into.

Residents were protesting there recently after word reached them that the City of Cape Town had plans to expand the area, thus paving the way for more homeless people and evictees to move in. They are fed-up with the empty promises of houses and basic services that never seem to materialise.

What were City officials thinking when they created this supposed temporary set-up? There are about 1,600 one-room structures housing more than 17,000 people. Nearly half of them are children. Originally four families were meant to share one outside toilet, but that has increased to about 40 families instead. Domestic violence and child and drug abuse are sky-high. None of the houses are insulated to suit scorching temperatures and the extreme cold – and this is mainly what is killing the people of Blikkiesdorp.

In summer temperatures soar up to 50 °C and in winter it goes as low as -7 °C inside the houses. Adults find it difficult to maintain their chronic illnesses in these extreme weather conditions. Children who arrived healthy are now regulars at Red Cross Children’s Hospital with various illnesses. Blikkiesdorp has become a breeding ground for diseases. The medication they receive doesn’t last in summer in their hot tin houses. There isn’t a tree in sight for protection from the sun.

Blikkiesdorp residents themselves know the conditions they live in are not fit for humans. “We are getting sick here,” they say.

“We were just dumped here and now nobody cares about us.”

“This place isn’t fit for a dog to live in.”

“I need to get out of here before one of my children leaves this place as a corpse.”

I ask again, what were our politicians thinking when they dumped thousands of people in a concentration camp with inhumane conditions? With an ever-increasing housing backlog, surely government should make an effort to speed up the pace of housing delivery. Yet, it seems as though they couldn’t care less.

Poverty is worsening, unemployment is increasing (which raises levels of crime) and homelessness is on the rise in all parts of the country. While our politicians drive their million-rand cars and while the president splashes more than R100 million on the ANC’s centenary celebrations, our people are wallowing in dirt and dying from it while they wait on services that are promised to them during every election period. Is this the value of a human life to our politicians?

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