IY now disaster area

Mayor Patricia de Lille addresses the press conference at the Hout Bay Sports Complex yesterday.

Mayor Patricia de Lille has declared Imizamo Yethu a local disaster area.

While the City had notified the South African National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) of its intention to declare the settlement a local disaster area in the wake of last month’s fires (“Ravaged by flames”, Sentinel, March 17), this application was still being processed. She subsequently took the decision to exercise her rights as mayor to enact the declaration.
This is allowed in terms of the Disaster Risk Management Act.

“This (move) will enable us to follow emergency procurement procedures, and will also facilitate the acceleration of our response and post-disaster recovery and rehabilitation,” Ms De Lille said at a press conference at the Hout Bay Sports Complex yesterday, Wednesday April 12.

However, it was far from the only comprehensive measure to be undertaken by the City.

Following extensive consultation with Imizamo Yethu community leaders and national and provincial government, the mayor announced that it had been agreed to create four temporary relocation areas (TRAs) which would allow residents either being accommodated in the tents at the Hout Bay Sports Complex or staying with relatives to “have their privacy and independence back” as the area continued to be super-blocked.

“The City was ambitious in the thinking that the super-blocking project would be completed in such a short space of time.

“The terrain is mountainous and therefore very difficult to build on.

We remain committed to this project, but the current conditions in tent city require a more comfortable arrangement for the fire victims for the next three months while this project is completed,” she said.

She conceded that not only were these conditions cramped, but were unhygienic for the 237 families staying there.

The four TRAs are:

Imizamo Yethu sports field

The City yesterday began dismantling one of the tents and started erecting 3m x 3m shacks on the sports field. Fifty-three families from one tent will move into these.

“We will then continue erecting structures to accommodate the 61 families in the second tent, so that this tent can be taken down as well. The City will take responsibility for erecting all structures as it is a TRA and we will also keep a record of occupants. We have already erected 10 standpipes on the field to meet the sanitation needs of the community. We will monitor the chemical toilets closely to ensure they are regularly serviced,” the mayor said.

Disa Site 2 (forestry site)

This is where the formal housing development is currently being built. The identified area will be prepared to immediately accommodate about 80 shacks.

“There is a building on the site which we will have to demolish as soon as possible so that we can provide another 80 structures on this site. Therefore, approximately 160 families will be able to relocate to this site for the next three months. This TRA will not hinder the formal housing project which is currently under way,” Ms De Lille said.

Hughenden Estate and Penzance site

Hughenden Estate will accommodate some 300 families, while the fourth TRA Penzance site will accommodate about 80 families. “The earthworks necessary to accommodate these families are yet to be installed. Therefore these sites will only be used at a later stage if required,” the mayor said.

The reblocking process of the settlement is estimated to cost R92 million.

Ms De Lille described the collaboration among all three spheres of government and the community leaders as “historic”.

“Hout Bay is a microcosm of South Africa, but with this project we are showing that we can all work together. We commend the leadership of Imizamo Yethu which has assisted to keep the community on board with what we are doing.”

In a joint statement, the community leaders said they had worked “very well” with the three spheres of government, “especially the National Department of Human Settlements and the City of Cape Town”.

“We are happy that we have managed to come up with a mid-term solution of housing people in the TRAs in four pieces of land while the super-blocking is under way in the fire-affected areas. We, as the community leaders, give the City the undertaking that we will ensure the cooperation of the community so that everything that we have agreed upon is implemented.”

It is clear many issues remains, however.

Earlier this week, the Sentinel visited Madiba Square where a large number of shacks have been erected, but many residents were not satisfied with the materials provided by the City.

“These fire kits are too small. The City has marked off areas for each shack, but they haven’t considered that previously there were many people staying in a shack, whole families,” said 26-year-old Anton Ntonjane.

Mr Ntonjane and friend Johannes Londeni illustrated this point by standing in one of the recently-erected shacks.

“Where is there space to cook or hang your clothes? There isn’t any. There used to be a few big houses here, but that was because there were many people living in them, and we all understood that. But what it looks like to me is that the City hasn’t considered the needs of the people living here.”

He added that when the superblocking plans were first revealed, fire victims were told that the City would assist them to rebuild their shacks.

But, he said: “This never happened. No one has helped us.”

Residents have had the option to build a second storey onto their homes in order to create more room, but this had come at great expense, Mr Ntonjane said.

“My family has been very lucky as a community member we know has provided us with the money to buy extra materials, but other people are getting into debt because they are forced to take out loans. I would say 99% of the people here are very angry about the way this has been handled.

Another issue, he said, was that people who did not have plots before the fire had suddenly been issued property.“The problem is that when officials come to speak to us, they always come with Law Enforcement. Then people are too scared to speak. But unless this situation improves, the anger is going to become too much and there will be war.”

Mr Ntonjane also questioned the supposed roll-out of fire breaks and access roads designed in accordance with the super-blocking plan.

“Where are these roads? I don’t see them. The problem is every day they are changing the map on what is supposed to happen. One day they tell you to cut your shack because it is going over the boundary, the next they tell you that you don’t need to cut it.”