eThembeni residents desperate for help as heavy rains flood area

eThembeni informal settlement is among the areas worst affected by flooding in the metro

Persistent rain is taking its toll on residents eThembeni informal settlement in Makhaza – and while some have decided to cut their losses and leave, others refuse to budge.

The Cape’s torrential rains led to flooding in low-lying areas over the past week. And following a week of heavy rains, eThembeni (a place of hope) along Baden Powell Road is among the worst affected areas in the Cape Metro.

With hundreds of shacks taking in water as a series of cold fronts passed through the Cape the week, the area’s leaders have accused the City’s officials of negligence.

They have also declared that they will not move unless the City provides them with proper housing.

Community leader Bulelani Qolani called on the City to service people irrespective of their colour and background. He also took a swipe at councillors who he accused of selling them out to the City. Explaining this, he said any leaders who said they were “illegal” in the land of their forefathers were sell-outs.

“If we are illegal it means even our councillors are illegal. They work for our enemy. They are hired to oppress their own people,” he told Vukani.

“We have been calling them to show sympathy with us and march to the City of Cape Town together. They never came. That shows us that they couldn’t care less about us. We are not illegal here. We chose to stay here because this is our father’s land,” he said.

“Our belongings get damaged by floods. As you can see, most people lost everything. Some got out with only the clothes they were wearing. Here we are talking about people who are also voters in this country. Our leaders and the City need to do something before all hell breaks loose,” he said.

While talking to Vukani, some leaders tried to barricade Baden Powell Road with tyres but police responded quickly to stop them.

When Vukani arrived, Thembekile Ndobongo was trying to relocate to a dry area. He said the situation had been bad for the past two weeks.

“Every time when there is rain, we have to suffer. Many have left their shacks because they are right in the middle of water. I am one of those that are most affected,” he said.

When Vukani contacted mayoral committee member for human settlements, Malusi Booi, he said people had been warned not to settle there as the area was designed to catch water after the rain and drain it to the ocean.

“This unlawful occupation has happened in a water detention pond,” he said.

“The City has warned people not to settle here as the pond is designed to catch the excess water after rain and then drain it to the ocean. It is designed to catch water and not for human habitation.

“The pond has been there before the people settled so this is a pre-existing condition. The City cannot be expected to pump out a pond that is not earmarked for human settlement, at extreme cost, every time it rains. This is simply not possible. People have also settled in the pond where the water needs to drain out, and thus the water cannot drain out,” he explained.

Mr Booi said the City regularly sent out communication about the dangers to the health and safety of residents who unlawfully occupied land that was unsuitable for habitation.

He added that assessments had found that most of the areas where flooding had been reported, were situated on land that was not suitable for habitation, like wetlands, waterlogged areas and private land which had been unlawfully occupied.

“More than 70% of the newly occupied areas, mostly as a result of organised large-scale unlawful occupation since the start of the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown, have been created on unsuitable, flood-prone land, dams and water retention ponds,” said Mr Booi.

“The City has been communicating that it expects quite a high number of flooding incidents this year due to the spike in unlawful occupations that have occurred.”

He said there are no reasonable engineering flood mitigation measures that can be successfully implemented in these instances due to the flood-prone nature of the land. He said assessments continue and the City will continue to help wherever it is possible to do so.

Community leader Bulelani Qolani is not happy with the City of Cape Town and local leaders for refusing to help the eThembeni community.
Thembekile Ndobongo is seen walking through the floods to fetch his staff and relocate to a dry area.
Residents were seen taking building materials to drier areas.