Constant drain blockage forces residents to mop up their area

Resident Chuma Kondile sits next to an overflowing drain and says their lives had been miserable for many years to due to the drain blockage.

Samora Machel residents say they have had enough of doing the municipality’s work and are demanding immediate intervention from the City of Cape Town.

For many years, residents say, they have had to mop up sewage spills and cope with an unbearable stench emanating from the drains.

They also have had to deal with ongoing dumping due, they allege, to a lack of support from council.

Collected refuse is often left on the street corners because there are no disposal sites or tools.

When Vukani visited the area on Friday May 12, residents were seen using their own brooms to clean the streets. Some drains were blocked.

Resident Thabile Takata said she had lived in the area for 14 years, and the situation had remained the same. She accused the City and ward councillor of failing to address the matter.

“The smell of these drains is nauseating and our deepest concern is for the children and senior citizens who are vulnerable members of our community. We are appealing to the local authorities to address this problem as quickly as possible,” she said

Ms Takata said they feared that their children could be exposed to diseases, particularly in winter when the area often flooded, with flood waters flowing into their homes. She said there were people who had been employed to clean up the area, but they were not doing a good job.

Ms Takata said residents did not know their ward councillor and he had never held any meetings with the residents to detail his plans and intentions to improve their community.

Ward councillor Sithembiso Mzobe admitted to Vukani that sewage overflow and blocked drains were indeed a problem in the area.

He said he had reported the matter to the City countless times but his pleas had fallen on deaf ears. Mr Mzobe said over the past few years the residents of Samora Machel had been forced to live in dirty areas, putting their health at risk.

However, he said, he would continue raising this matter until the City did something about it. But he vehemently denied that he did not host community meetings with the residents and said he always updated residents about any development plans for the area.

Resident, Chuma Kondile, said he felt that their community had been ignored.

“We are like pigs who have been dumped in the dirtiest area. This is uncalled for,” he said.

The City, however, said residents have to take some responsibility and that in most cases blocked drains were the result of residents disposing of cooking oil or fat, rags, rubble and other litter into the sewage system.

Mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services, and energy, Xanthea Limberg, said with regard to refuse collection, they were trying out different closed refuse containers in a number of pilot projects in the city.

“Until such time as a suitable technology can be identified and funding can be allocated, the City recommends that residents wait until collection day before placing their refuse outside,” she said.

Furthermore, she said, residents are reminded that dumping litter in open spaces is illegal and can cause a public health risk.

She also claimed that the City had recently been forced to cancel a contract to rehabilitate infrastructure in this area due to staff being repeatedly robbed, equipment and materials being stolen, and local labour threatening violence when their contracts ended.

“The City’s Water Services Department has requested funding for a new contract in the next financial year, but the funding has not been confirmed yet. “The estimated value of the contract is R1.4 million. While this should improve conditions if approved, unless residents stop disposing of things that block the sewers, overflows will continue,” she said.