Battling mountains of rubbish on their doorstep, leaking roof sheets, raw sewage running through the living room and being protected by little more than thin roof sheets.
This is the grim reality that many Imizamo Yethu residents have to live with. And the recent rains did nothing to help the situation.
Amanda Mbatha with her three children have stayed in their rundown shack for nearly a year, but since losing her husband, she has literally struggled to keep the roof over her head.
Her eldest son, who is unemployed, attempts to fix their shack with materials he picked up on the road, but after a storm, they find themselves back to square one.
“My son will bring sheets he found or materials he picked up. He will add to our place, but the following morning, it will be broken again and we will have to fix it again,” she says.
Living in these conditions is tough for the former seamstress, who lost her job last year when the factory she was working for closed due to Covid.
“We are earning nothing now and every day is hard. Every day has a new challenge, but for now, we have to fight to keep the roof over our heads. Living here isn’t much better than living on the street,” Ms Mbatha said.
“But we know there is a roof over our heads and I think for me that is comforting – even if sometimes we have to fight to keep the roof there.”
Shadrack Ngobeni’s life is no different, except that he also has to contend with the pests which are attracted to the mountain of filth close to his home.
Mr Ngobeni said many in IY had accepted their living conditions.
“People cannot afford to fix their homes or make it safe for their families. Too many in this community have lost their work and their situations have become worse due to Covid. All we can do is try and work harder and work through the elements,” he said.
Recently a damp wall in his home collapsed, resulting in parts of the roof caving in. He repaired the wall but later, another section of the roof gave in, forcing him to vacate his informal structure as rains continued to lash the area.
“We couldn’t repair anything, because we were just making ourselves tired by fighting the rains. Once we returned, we then had to put up with the flooding, repair the damages to that and then focus on the damages we started off with,” Mr Ngobeni explained.
“It’s a never-ending struggle for our people and we are just grateful to have people who want to help and care for us in the community.”
Community leader, Kenny Tokwe, described the living conditions as “bad” after the floods caused massive damage to several informal structures.
“I am hurt to see families living like this and I am always grateful for the help,” Mr Tokwe said.
He applauded the efforts of Ubuntu Charity e.V, a non-profit organisation which recently launched several community initiatives in Hout Bay and is headed up by Silke Rylands, originally from Germany, (“Women on the move”, Sentinel News, April 9).
It was a series of videos posted on social media to illustrate the devastating impact of the rains on IY that drew Ms Rylands’ attention to the plight of those who live there.
“The state of some houses is shocking. Nobody should live like that. Our teachers asked me some weeks ago to come and see an old aunty that lives close by because her roof was leaking and the whole house was wet. Nowhere to sleep, to sit, to live.
First, we tried (to cover) it with a big plastic sheet but the next heavy rain showed that wasn’t sufficient so we came back, took the whole old roof off and put on a new one,” Ms Rylands explained.
After checking with all the families involved in one of their programmes if they were experiencing similar problems with leaking and flooding, the NPO provided the residents with materials, such as roof sheets, cement, roof tiles and plastic sheets.
“Afterwards I contacted Kenny to ask if he knows of more people that urgently need help with their houses. He gave me contact details and so we went off to work – fixing roofs, putting concrete around houses to avoid the rain from getting in at the bottom,” Ms Rylands said.
One of the houses they worked on only required a roof upon first glance, but once they got stuck, it was a “much bigger job”.
“The house was in a disastrous state and close to collapsing. There was nothing to fix or save. Being determined to help the people who live there, we emptied the whole house, took it down and built a completely new structure,” Ms Rylands said.
With the help of a few neighbours, the new house was finished after three days of hard work.
But the problems are much worse in IY and their efforts are but a drop in the ocean of need.
“Many of the shacks In Imizamo Yethu are in a bad state – water coming in everywhere (sometimes even sewerage), cold, small, not stable – not a place to live comfortably and feel home. Unfortunately many people don’t have the means to fix their houses, since beginning of lockdown even more so. There’s still so much more to do,” Ms Rylands said.
To help, contact Kenny Tokwe on 083 445 4716 or Silke Rylands on 063 009 5393.