10 July 2018

South Africa: Khayelitsha Fire Victims Still Struggling for Decent Housing

Photo: Ashraf Hendricks/GroundUp
A resident hangs up her washing in OR Tambo Temporary Relocation Area in Khayelitsha.

On 1 January 2013, a massive fire in BM section, Khayelitsha left about 800 households and over 3,000 people homeless as their homes burnt to ashes.

These families stayed at the OR Tambo Hall until April 2013 when they moved into temporary structures at OR Tambo Temporary Relocation Area (TRA). They are still living there today.

The residents said they were told by the City of Cape Town in 2013 that they would be moved to the Bosasa housing development in Mfuleni six months after their arrival.

However, the Bosasa development was not completed because of "continuous violent resistance from the Mfuleni community which forced the City to stop all work on the project in 2014/15," said Councillor Xanthea Limberg, Mayoral Committee Member for Informal Settlements.

Residents say life in the TRA is tough. "These houses are small and cold. This place is unsafe. We must be moved," said 35-year-old mother of three, Zoliswa Plati. "We are scared to walk to the toilet at night, we have to cover our windows and doors with plastic to prevent flooding when it's raining."

Community leader Nosisana Diza lives with her daughter and granddaughter. "My daughter and I are both unemployed. I tried reopening my shop here to make some income but I lost everything as I kept getting robbed," said Diza. "This is an open space, so when gangsters from outside the area are being chased, they run here to hide. We don't feel safe at all."

Mandisa Phindela, another community leader, says there are no flushing toilets. "We have been asking for toilets with no luck. So we use pit-latrine toilets for the children and Mshengu (portable) toilets as adults."

"Being here is not pleasant. From not having electricity for years to worst of all not knowing when, if we ever, we will be moved to the better place we were promised. The City has failed us," said Freeman Nomala (70). "About 20 people have passed away without the dignity that comes with staying in a decent house."

Limberg told GroundUp that the City has reached an agreement with the Mfuleni community and "is in the process of completing the development". She said that all of the residents displaced by the 2013 fire would be moved to the Bosasa Incremental Development Area (IDA) project. An IDA is a housing area in which the infrastructure is developed gradually over time.

According to the original project proposal, the scheduled completion date for the Bosasa IDA is December 2018.

But ward 89 Councillor Monde Nqulwana said some residents at OR Tambo TRA do not want to move. "They say they don't want to move from one small temporary house to another."

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