City blames informal settlement residents for overflowing sewage

The ward councillor says that the problem in Kosovo and Samora Machel is that the drain pipes are too small and do not have sufficient volume for the area's population. Photo by Anathi Mlonyeni

The City of Cape Town blames illegal dumping by residents for the overflowing sewage in Kosovo and Samora Machel.

The City of Cape Town is blaming Kosovo informal settlement for the blockage of drains that results in overflowing sewage in the area. Walking on tip-toes trying to negotiate one’s way around the puddles of sewage with a vile stench is something that residents of Kosovo and Samora Machel have grown accustomed to. The City claims that illegal dumping is the main cause of the blocked drains.

“Common causes of blockages include rags, nappies, tampons and sanitary pads, wet wipes, condoms, general litter, building materials, and the build-up of cooking oil. With regard to cooking oil/fats, when these are poured or flushed down your sink and drain, they harden and build up on the inside of the sewer pipes and act like glue, attracting rags, hair, paper and other debris. The hardness of these blockages can also make them very difficult to clean out,” said Jyothi Naidoo, a senior media liaison officer for the City of Cape Town.

However, Ward 88 councillor, Siphiwo Nqamnduku, told Elitsha that the problem of overflowing sewage in the area is caused by the infrastructure. “The underground pipes are small and the population is too much and the pipes cannot handle it,” he said.

According to Nqamnduku, even though he continuously reports the overflowing sewage, the City does not have a lasting solution to the problem. “I report to the City of Cape Town every time there is a problem and they send sewer trucks to come drain the matter. They do not come and fix the problem directly [that is, permanently],” he said.

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A 2016 report on Kosovo states that the informal settlement is home to 14,380 people who make up 5,824 households. The residents are angry over the poor drainage system in the area and they say that the drains burst every few hour after they have been fixed.

Nokwanele who lives right in front of one of the drains in Kosovo said they are often sick and they want that particular drain to be closed.

“It’s always blocked and dirty. Our leaders refused to close the drain claiming that it is the main drain in Kosovo, [that] all the drains in the area depend on it,” said Nokwanele. Her son once nearly drowned in the drain and he was rushed to hospital and suffered severe body rash.

According to the World Health Organisation, overflowing sewage from drains “contributes significantly to the spread of diseases such as typhoid and cholera, and may increase the likelihood of contracting worm infections from soil contaminated by faeces.”

Olwethu Matsibisa, a shop owner in Kosovo said that the overflowing sewage is affecting her business and is costing her a lot of money. She said some of her stock gets ruined because sewage and dirt is blocking the entrance to the shop. Since the time she has to wait for the City to come unblock the drains is too long, she resorts to self-management measures.

“I have to hire a truck with the little money that I make to bring me sand so that I can make a way for my customers. It’s not safe for children who come and buy from the shop because it’s always slippery and I am afraid they may fall,” she said. Matsibisa maintains that the City of Cape Town does not care about residents living in shacks.

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According to Naidoo, the City budgets over R250-million each year to clear sewer blockages. Despite the fact that the City believes that illegal dumping is the main reason for blocked drains, Matsibisa said that each house is only provided with two garbage bags a week.

“Unfortunately, as long as residents continue to abuse the system, blockages/overflows will continue to occur on a daily basis,” said Naidoo.

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