Sewage runs through informal settlement in Cape Town

Ward councillor Simphiwe Nonkeyizana took to Facebook and criticised the City of Cape Town for failing to repair the damaged drains. All photos by Vincent Lali

Dozens of shack dwellers say they have to contend with sewage and uncollected rubbish in Masondo informal settlement near Phase 9 in Wallacedene, Kraaifontein. Some of their shacks are located on the edge of a retention dam, which is covered in human waste.

The sewage gushes out of four damaged storm water drains and three sewage drains and flows into their shacks beside Masondo Street. When Elitsha visited the informal settlement, the sewage drain water was damming up on Masondo Street.

Sinethemba Mandla (32) said he moved to Masondo after he struggled to pay rent in Phase Nine, Wallacedene about four weeks ago. He now stays with his wife and child in a shack beside the street. “Motorists drive through the dirty water, scattered it around and push it into our shacks,” said Mandla.

To prevent the dirty water from coming into his shack, he said, he digs up soil and surrounds his shack with it. “The water melts the soil away and floods my shack. I have to make a hole in the wall to allow the water to move out. It makes my floor muddy and causes my shack to smell of s__t. Despite the smell and the mud, I continue to stay here because I have nowhere else to stay,” he said.

Mandla said his living conditions make him worry about his health.

Qhama Nazo said she settled in Masondo along with her 8-month-old baby and her boyfriend about two months ago. The sewage spill forced her to leave her shack, she said: “The sewage spill dams up on my floor and gives me hell here, so I now sleep at my friend’s place.” 

 “The dirty water has pushed my shack towards the retention dam. Now I have asked some youngsters to repair it,” she said. Nazo and her boyfriend bought rubble for R50 from construction vehicle drivers to cover her wet floor.

 The flooding damaged her cupboard and her fridge, she said.

Children playing in sewage contaminated water after rains in Kraaifontein.

Aneziwe Tsipa said the water drenched her bed, made it smell and forced her to put her mattress out to dry and to vacate her shack. “I can’t stay here. I will move back into my shack after the dirty water has subsided,” she said. It messed her groceries and clothes and damaged her cupboard and wardrobe, she said.

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Community leader, Athule Ntlokwana said the shack dwellers dump their rubbish everywhere in Masondo. “We also throw our rubbish into the retention dam because we don’t have wheelie bins and rubbish bags,” he said. “Since we don’t have communal toilets, residents s__t in buckets and dump their excrement in the dam.”

Ntlokwana said the uncollected rubbish invites rats and flies. And mosquitoes: “Swarms of mosquito will deprive us of sleep in summer if the city doesn’t remove the rubbish,” he said.

Ward councillor, Simphiwe Nonkeyizana, took to Facebook recently and criticised the City of Cape Town for failing to repair the damaged drains and to collect rubbish. “Water accompanied by raw human excrement in our streets is really a headache,” he said. He and other residents sent photos of the damaged drains to “the powers that be,” but they offered no assistance.

“The City of Cape Town doesn’t care a bit,” he said.

Nonkeyizana said he told the City of Cape Town about the sewage burst several times, but it has not yet fixed the damaged drains.

“The residents stay in squalid, hazardous conditions. Their kids risk catching diseases while they play in the dirty water. It’s a problem that the city must deal with urgently,” he said.

He wants the shack dwellers affected by the spillage to be relocated. “The city must buy land and hand it to Masondo residents. Also, it must upgrade our sewage system for the benefit of residents who stay in nearby RDP houses,” he said.

Nonkeyizana said a nearby farmer offered to sell a piece of land to the city to accommodate shack dwellers who are exposed to the sewage. The city rejected the offer, he said.

The shack dwellers initially stayed behind nearby RDP houses and paid rent. After they realized that the land did not belong to the house owners, they stopped giving them rent money,” Nonkeyizana said. “Because they have detached themselves from their landlords, they have no access to basic services.”

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Masondo informal settlement expanded when former backyarders occupied land during Level 5 lockdown, joining shack dwellers who were already staying there, he said.

Residents say they had to dig a furrow to direct the sewage away from their homes.

Councillor Malusi Booi, City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements, said Masondo “is not a recognised informal settlement” because the former backyarders illegally occupied the land. “The City is very clear in its communication that it cannot prioritise newly invaded areas ahead of other settlements where provision has been made in its Budget,” he said. “It simply cannot stretch its resources in this manner.”

“Due to the nature and severity of these blockages, it can only be dealt with using specialised vehicles,” Booi said, adding that the local sub-council was asked to deal with the damaged drains.

The densely packed shacks and illegal electricity connections make it impossible for officials to work in Masondo, he said. Regarding the nearby farmland that is for sale, Booi said: “The purchasing of the farmer’s land is not a solution as many pockets of land in the Wallacedene area have been invaded and are mostly overpopulated.”

Booi said the city collects rubbish “on an ad hoc basis” in Masondo.

Hearing what the MEC for Human Settlements had to say, Nonkeyizana responded that the problem is a result of poor planning on the part of the City. “The answers given here are inadequate. Firstly, the sewer blockages are not new; land invasions took place only from June while the problem dates far back from June. The survey that was done by Jeffers and Green established that the infrastructure is dilapidated,  it needs upgrading. They undertook to correct it but unfortunately the budget available at the time couldn’t carry out the entire job… They, since abandoned that, therefore system failure is the consequences of late upgrading of pipes,” he said.

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