Residents resist superblocking in IY

Pamela Sofika and Wiseman Duma are demanding Dontse Yakhe residents have their basic services restored.

The City of Cape Town has failed to keep Dontse Yakhe residents in the loop over its plans to overhaul their neighbourhood for utilities and roads, say two of the people behind last week’s march on the mayor’s office.

The process, called “superblocking” by the City, has drawn flak from march organisers Pamela Sofika and Wiseman Duma who say residents are frustrated as they feel the City did not consult with them adequately.

Ms Sofika and Mr Duma say residents will be left in limbo with no means to earn a living while their neighbourhood is shut down for superblocking – many in Dontse Yakhe rely on their shacks to run informal businesses that are their sole source of income.

“They just don’t care that we need to make money to survive. We all want to get out of poverty and this is the only way we know how,” said Ms Sofika.

Ms Sofika is among the residents who are resisting the superblocking of their areas in the upper reaches of Imizamo Yethu. While Madiba Square has already been superblocked and provided with electricity, the hold-outs rebuilt their shacks soon after the March 11 fire and they don’t want to lose them.

More than 2 000 of these residents were ferried to the Cape Town CBD in taxis on Tuesday August 15 and they handed a memorandum to a representative from mayor Patricia De Lille’s office.

At the time, Ms De Lille was at a ceremony in Imizamo Yethu’s Madiba Square to switch on power to the area (“IY superblocking upset,” Sentinel, August 18).

Ms Sofika said the big turnout for the march contradicted City officials’ claims that only a few people were unhappy about superblocking. She said they had been getting advice from the Legal Resource Centre.

The memorandum from the residents – those living in the areas known as the Shooting Range, Ibhayi, Dontse Yakhe and Petersen – demanded that basic services such as water, toilets and electricity, be provided within eight weeks.

It also called for the removal of Loyiso Nkohla, appointed by the City as a community liaison, from the process.

Ms Sofika said that in the wake of the March 11 fire, residents had been told that they would be allowed to rebuild their shacks only to find out later that the fire-ravaged areas were to superblocked.

“We were told that residents would be moved to temporary relocation areas, but how do you move me to make a street and then tell me that I can come back to the same area when there is a street there?” Ms Sofika said.

“When the court order to tear down shacks was granted in June, Loyiso told us that our shacks would have to be moved so that underground electricity cables could be put in. But I spoke to a person from Eskom and they told me there was no need to move the shacks to put in underground electricity.

“We have been given conflicting information, which is why people don’t trust him. He is dividing the community.”

Ms Sofika claimed 80% of the people at the temporary relocation camp at the Hout Bay Sports Complex had never even owned homes in Imizamo Yethu before.

“You had children living in the formal houses moving out of their parents’ homes and suddenly living there. The young kids flooded the sports field.”

Mr Duma called on the City to work with the people of Dontse Yakhe because up until this point “they had not listened to us”.

“They must stop making agreements with certain community leaders and ignoring us. We are the people most affected,” he said.

Ms Sofika believed the Dontse Yakhe group was considered an “enemy” by the City.

“There is a lot of money involved in this process, and they don’t like us because they see us as getting in the way. But we want to be treated with dignity.”

Ms Sofika, who is studying for a degree majoring in politics and English through Unisa, said because she was unable to run her eatery from home she could no longer afford the textbooks for her courses.

“People are going to the bathroom in the area around my house. There is poo everywhere. How long are we going to wait for our basic services?” she asked.

On Tuesday August 22, Xanthea Limberg, the mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services and energy, responded to the residents’ memorandum, saying representatives of the blocks were invited to sit on the Imizamo Yethu leadership and City joint steering committee, which met monthly. She also invited them to meet with the mayor later that same day where the project plan for Imizamo Yethu would be presented to them.

But the meeting did not go well. Ms Sofika said the mayor had been “rude” and told them that she would not be discussing their complaints. This angered the residents and that night they burnt tyres and protested near the graveyard on Hout Bay road before being dispersed by police who fired stun grenades.

The City said it was looking into the particulars of the Sentinel’s enquiry and would respond soonest, but it did not comment before this edition went to print. Mr Nkohla declined to comment.