15 August 2018

South Africa: Former Mayor Promised us Houses, Say Nyanga Residents

Residents of Lotus Park informal settlement say former mayor of Cape Town Nomaindiya Mfeketo promised them houses when they were moved from their shacks in Kiki, Gugulethu, to Lotus Park emergency housing in 2003.

In July about 50 residents protested over harsh living conditions, illegal evictions and broken promises. They said law enforcement officials had been demolishing their shacks and confiscating building materials.

Lotus Park is near Nyanga Junction railway station, on the banks of the Lotus River. Ward councillor Sonwabo Ngxumza, who lives in the area, said he was among the original 1,000 people moved from Kiki to make way for an upgrade along the canal.

Today, about 3,000 people live in Lotus Park.

"Promises were made, even though they were not in black and white, that we were going to be moved either to Delft or Mfuleni. Since that time we are still on the housing list. There was no feedback from the City and the mayor [Mfeketo]. Then, there was a change of administration," he said.

Ngxumza said the biggest challenge was sanitation. The area floods when it rains. The gravel roads are potholed; there is a lack of cleaners and janitors; the nearest clinic is far away, in KTC. Crime and unemployment are high and there are no facilities for young people. He estimated that more than half of households were without electricity. "As a result there are illegal connections, causing fires," said Ngxumza.

Bulelani Mbathu, a committee member in Lotus Park, said the river was filthy and a health hazard.

Linda Mzikedo, who lives with his wife and three children in a shack, said the family walks about a kilometre to fetch water and to use a toilet. He is paying R300 a month for an illegal electricity connection. He also complained about broken taps. He has been living in Lotus Park since 2005.

Ngxumza said a new area near the railway station had been occupied and had no basic services and no communal taps. "Next winter, if those people are still there, they are going to experience heavy flooding," he warned.

Lotus does have a community centre which has an Early Child Development (ECD) facility, netball court and provides Wi-Fi to residents. It was established in 2013 by non-profit organisation Violence Prevention Through Urban Upgrading, not the City. The centre manager, Mila Kwande, said they are not funded by the City.

The Mayoral Committee Member for Area South, Councillor Eddie Andrews, said the City could not comment on alleged promises made by former mayor Mfeketo.

Andrews said the informal settlement was divided into two parts. The land on one part was owned by the City and contained approximately 100 dwellings. The City expected contractors to be on the site by October 2018 for electrification. The other part of Lotus Park was owned by PRASA and contained approximately 600 homes, he said. The City had engaged with PRASA and was awaiting formal written consent to be allowed to electrify the area.

There are over 700 dwellings in Lotus Park. Photo: Tariro Washinyira

The spokesperson for Minister Mfeketo, Xolani Xundu, said: "Whilst Mayor of Cape Town, the Minister met a number of communities whose plight she attended to. Unfortunately, she was not around for long to fulfil all her commitments ... The community and their ward councillor should not have waited for 15 years to raise this issue but should have taken it up with the City of Cape Town long ago."

"We encourage the community of Lotus Park to apply for government subsidised houses through the City of Cape and the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements. Those who qualify should be able to be allocated houses in other housing developments in the city."

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