South Africa: Mamelodi Floods - 'I Watched As My Shack Was Swept Away'

11 December 2019

For more than 180 families whose homes were destroyed by the flash floods in Mamelodi, Pretoria starting afresh is the only option.

Shack dwellers in the informal settlement of 77 Buffer Lake watched in disbelief as their homes were swept away by the floods that wreaked havoc in Tshwane on Monday after days of relentless rain.

Father of seven, Moses Lukhule, left for work in the morning in the rain. He said he had to come home early when neighbours alerted him of the situation.

"They called to say it's bad. I rushed home to find my shack still standing. The water levels were up to your waist. I watched as my shack was swept away," said Lukhele.

He said his wife had managed to leave with their children.

Moses Lukhele had to start over after flash floods swept away his belongings at 77 Buffer Lake in Mamelodi. Photo: Mosima Rafapa

James Sekgobela said his family of three lost most of their belongings in the floods. "A large case which had my child's Christmas clothes was swept away. My wife's important documents and our drawer which had some of our clothes and my ID was washed away too," he said.

Sekgobela said they sought refuge at a church and watched as their homes were destroyed.

James Sekgobela salvaged what he could from the ruins. Photo: Mosima Rafapa

Community leader and one of the founders of the informal settlement, Mandla Mahlangu said residents had to be rescued by rescue divers who came to their aid. Mahlangu said it was time that the municipality fulfilled promises made to them.

"I am 46. I cannot be staying at the home where I grew up, with my children. All we need is for Tshwane metro to give us proper land. We can vacate the area with pleasure if they can move us to a safer one," said Mahlangu.

By midday on Tuesday, most residents had been housed by various organisations including the Baptist church in Mamelodi West, where individuals lent a helping hand.

"We counted about 511 people from 188 families," said Tshepo Ngobeni of Ngobeni Projects based in Mamelodi. "We are collecting stats to assist any agencies that come."

The aftermath of the floods which devastated the settlement. Photo: Mosima Rafapa

Spokesperson for the Tshwane metro Lindela Mashigo said the informal settlement had been established recently and was one of 27 in the region, the oldest of which was establshed in 1995. Mashigo said the City could not formalise all the informal settlements at once or provide services. "The City has decided to engage with the National Department of Human Settlement through NUSP (National Upgrading Support Programme) and is now finalising the Upgrading Strategy."

"The approach might be short to long term as it will depend on a number of factors, such as the availability of land, required budget, age of the settlement and the qualification criteria set through the housing code."

Acting Tshwane mayor Abel Tau said plans were in place to assist residents of the informal settlement. "We are not only looking at Mamelodi. Other areas such as Hammanskraal and Atteridgeville have also experienced floods."

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