The fate of Cape’s evicted

Haphazard homes: The standardised Wolwerivier structures provide a roof over people’s heads as well as running water and electricity, but they have also taken people away from their livelihoods and their children’s schools. (Photo: David Harrison)

Haphazard homes: The standardised Wolwerivier structures provide a roof over people’s heads as well as running water and electricity, but they have also taken people away from their livelihoods and their children’s schools. (Photo: David Harrison)

Community leader Magdalene Minnaar says the City of Cape Town’s plans to expand Wolwerivier by 4 500 houses were not discussed with existing residents. Currently there are about 450 occupied households in the temporary relocation area, situated some 30km outside Cape Town.

Minnaar says some residents still did not know about these plans months after the official announcement had been made, and that she had only learned about the plans when she read about it in an article.

Residents were worried about how the planned housing development would affect them, she says, claiming that they were not kept informed about decisions or updated on progress.

But Alderman JP Smith, the city’s mayoral committee member for safety, security and social services, says the ward councillor, Lubabalo Makeleni, had been informed about all developments in the area.

Three years after the arrival of Wolwerivier’s first residents, Minnaar says progress has been frustrated by a lack of communication from the city, limited employment opportunities and transport problems.

Most of the residents were relocated from informal settlements that were demolished, such as Skandaalkamp, or had previously been homeless.

“People suffer in this community,” Minnaar tells GroundUp, sitting in the open-plan housing unit in Wolwerivier where she lives with her husband. She says unemployment, isolation and overcrowding — key findings in nonprofit justice group Ndifuna Ukwazi’s 2015 social audit of Wolwerivier — remain serious issues.

Chantelle Sweetly (19) has been living in Wolwerivier for two years. She lives with her boyfriend, their two-month-old baby and her 60-year-old mother, recently hospitalised with pneumonia. She relies on social grants. She says she does not have enough for the family to live on but, aside from her financial insecurity, Sweetly doesn’t have a problem with life in Wolwerivier.

But Wolwerivier is far from the suburbs and urban centres where work opportunities are concentrated. Adult residents struggle to access public transport, though there are regular buses for children attending schools in the surrounding areas.

(Photo: David Harrison)

Nomawande (32) and Nomfezeko (31) are both unemployed single mothers. “We’re stuck here,” says Nomawande.

According to Minnaar, there is one 7.20am taxi that goes to Melkbosstrand, the nearest public transport hub. Dunoon taxis stop at Wolwerivier every few hours from 5am to 8pm.

However, these taxis do not depart until fully loaded, which she says can take up to two hours. Many residents can’t even afford the one-way fare of R10 to Melkbosstrand or R11 to Dunoon.

Minnaar says this has health implications. Tuberculosis and HIV are often undiagnosed and untreated because people with these infections can’t access healthcare facilities. “A lot of people are sick here but they don’t talk about it,” says Minnaar.

Although there is a mobile health clinic that residents say comes twice a month, Minnaar says that it only treats children and provides family planning services.

She says the city’s social development department withdrew from Wolwerivier in late January without explanation. Asked why, Smith said the department has yet to be introduced to the new Wolwerivier community committee elected in early 2017, and that the ward councillor has been asked to set up the meeting. He said the department is keen to implement programmes in Wolwerivier.

In addition, Minnaar says that various promises have been made by the city about road upgrades, clinics and other projects but without clear timeframes.

“The city never gives you dates,” she says.

Despite these issues, residents who spoke to GroundUp say they appreciate the running water, electricity and relatively sturdy housing units they have in Wolwerivier. Streetlights, which residents have been waiting for since being moved there three years ago, are to be installed this month.

Councillor Xanthea Limberg, the city’s mayoral committee member for informal settlements, says the installation of infrastructure linked to putting in streetlights has already begun.

Residents have also started their own initiatives to improve life in Wolwerivier. Children in a local dance group run by community leader Rita Salvester recently held their first public performance on Women’s Day.

Minnaar says that such recreational events keep people positive. A children’s talent show is planned for October.

Minnaar runs a feeding scheme for the local children out of her kitchen twice a week with support from the community policing forum and produce from local farms.

She says she is also often called on as a conflict mediator. To increase their household income, Minnaar says that many residents rent space in their units to people from outside the community.

She says this exacerbates the already strained infrastructure and forces residents to compete with renters for scarce job opportunities and for aid from support programmes. — GroundUp

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