The general sense in the room was that the imbizo was little else than a talkshop and residents of informal settlement told the housing minister that they are tired of empty promises.
Community leaders and housing activists from over ten informal settlements who attended an imbizo hosted by the department of human settlements raised issues of housing, title deeds, sewerage and the overall lack of service delivery in informal settlements.
Residents that were present were from Khayelitsha, Bishop Lavis, Philippi, Gugulethu, Kraaifontein, Mfuleni, Langa, Heideveld, Imizamo Yethu and Masiphumelele.
The imbizo, which was attended by Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi and was held at Tusong Multi-Purpose Centre in Khayelitsha, was meant to provide feedback on the provision of basic services.
The Intlungu yaseMatyotyombeni Movement, an organisation representing residents who occupied land during the lockdown period, stated that moving shack dwellers from one shack to another during disasters should end. “We ask that in the case that people have been moved to emergency accommodation [due to disasters such as fires] that they do not get sent back to living in shacks, but are instead placed in houses,” said Wiseman Mpepo, the general secretary of Intlungu yaseMatyotyombeni.
A complaint that community leaders were left behind in some engagements prior to the imbizo was raised by Mpepo.
Community members and leaders nodded in unison when Heideveld Development Forum leader, Vanessa Adriaanse, said it is not enough that the minister sits and listens to their grievances. “You need to see what is happening in our communities, not talk about it … We cannot stand here as leaders in our communities and be apologetic,” she said.
Community members in Heideveld used to walk 2km to fetch water, but they do acknowledge the progress that has been made to make sure they have easier access to water now. Recent evictions, however, forced numerous residents to appear in court on the 4th of May. “Most of us are unemployed and because our case is at the High Court, we have to put money as a community to pay our lawyer,” said Adriaanse.
The continuation or start of new housing projects, the housing waiting list and overall service delivery were among the pressing issues that community leaders raised.
In response, minister Kubayi said she understands the pain of people living in informal settlements, and that the pointing of fingers with the City of Cape Town will cause conflict. Referring to the issue of people awaiting for title deeds predating 1994, the minister said, “If there is something that is defeating someone, they must ask and not blame someone else, because I do come back to the communities and engage with them.” The minister added that there is no law that says she needs to sign to release title deeds; it is the city that needs to do so.
“There are currently toilets and water being installed in informal settlements. In our national policy, the ratio implemented is that of 1:5, meaning that 1 toilet must service 5 households,” said Kubayi. The minister said that she is upset that there were commitments made to her that were not fulfilled, and that she needs a report stating which areas are not complying with national policies in terms of ratios, and where toilets are being placed.
“The standard of provision must be consistent across the country. It’s not optional for the city to do it; it’s a must,” said Kubayi.
Some community members left the imbizo feeling indifferent as they feel like it’s all talk from the minister. Phumeza Obose from Phumlani informal settlement in Mfuleni said she wants more action. “I hear them talk, but I see very little action. All I can say now is that I have heard.”
The wet season in Cape Town is infamous for floods and fires. Obose feels that the department should do something in the meantime to curb this. “They could give us blankets in the meantime, make sure the drains in our areas work as well so we are not faced with the same issue every winter,” said Obose.
There was a plea for there to be a follow up housing indaba. The minister, however, said they would first have to figure out its goals and execution before she approves the idea.