26 September 2018

South Africa: City Misses Deadline On Masiphumelele Land

Community wants land for relocation of wetland shacks and a development plan as agreed last year

The future of the Masiphumelele Wetlands informal settlement has been a bone of contention between the City of Cape Town and the community for over 15 years. Almost a year ago, the City undertook to present a development plan for the area at the end of June 2018. Three months later, the community is still in the dark.

In December 2017, community leaders together with Mayor Patricia de Lille signed a settlement agreement supervised by the office of the Public Protector. A task team, consisting of representatives from the City, local councillors, Masiphumelele community leaders, and the South African Human Rights Commissioner, was elected to oversee the implementation of the settlement agreement.

The crux of the settlement agreement is the Masiphumelele Spatial Development Framework, now three months overdue. The community want the City to make a piece of land (remainder of Erf 5131) available as an emergency relocation area for residents in the Masiphumelele Wetlands informal settlement.

The framework plan is meant to identify land for housing for the Masiphumelele community. It is also meant to make provision for access to basic services, such as municipal roads, water, sanitation, fire-fighting services and health services.

Community leader Tshepo Moletsana said, "The deadline [for the plan] was in June. They were on recess in July, but I asked in the meeting [with the task team] in August and there was no explanation as to why it has not been provided."

The informal settlement is located in a wetland area and this has been given as the reason why the City cannot provide certain services. Residents are faced with open drainage canals, flooding, a lack of sanitation and limited electricity.

The community have long been asking that a piece of land (Erf 5131) near the wetlands be used to resettle thousands of families living in the informal settlement. Residents say former Mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo had bought the land to benefit the residents.

"We want the Mayor to come and tell the community when the environmental impact assessment on Erf 5131 will happen; when people will be relocated to Erf 5131; and what budget they have for the residents of Masiphumelele and how it will be spent," said Moletsana.

Part of the land, which is 10.8ha, was turned into a soccer field in recent years and another section is earmarked for the upcoming Phase Four housing project.

Moletsana said that when the City produces the development framework plan it will give the community a way forward for developing the area. Moving some people to Erf5131 would alleviate overcrowding in the broader community, he said.

Councillor Brett Herron, the City's Mayoral Committee Member for Urban Development said, "The Spatial Development Framework is a complex document, and it took us longer than expected to finalise the final draft."

He said the City would start discussion sessions with the community by the first week of October, should everything go as planned.

Herron said the City was in the process of applying to the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and the National Department of Water and Sanitation for the necessary environmental approvals for the Erf 5131 land.

The mayor's office confirmed that a meeting with the community would be held before the end of September.

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