Maudie Ngxukuma stood motionless at her en-suite bathroom door and said a short prayer while waiting for an “aeroplane to crash over” her house.
This is how the 75-year-old Zwelitsha resident described minutes leading up to a heavy storm and gusting winds that destroyed the roof of her house, on Wednesday last week, June 15.
Ms Ngxukuma, who last year lost her husband and her son in November and December respectively, was one of many Nyanga residents affected by last week’s freak storm.
The storm reportedly lasted for about eight minutes, leaving damage that could take years for some of the property owners to fix. Most of the affected owners are pensioners, who rely on their pension grant to make ends meet. They are now appealing for help. Most of the affected homes have been covered with durable plastic covers, and with more downpours expected in the coming months, it is only a matter of time before the pensioners suffer further damages. The houses are now leaking.
Councillor Mzimasi Mangali said 71 houses in Zwelitsha Drive, Freedom Square and Mpetha Square were affected. He said the biggest concern was Zwelitsha Drive, where all the owners were pensioners.
He said most of the properties in Zwelitsha were “in poor condition” and owners could ill afford to fix them.
“The owners were just excited to get the title deeds, but the condition of most of the houses is not good,” he said.
He added that there was a need to replace roofing for most of the houses as they had hazardous asbestos roofing.
“I feel that the national government should be involved,” he said, urging political parties not to politicise people’s plight. “People are waiting patiently for help,” he said.
A visibly worried Ms Ngxukuma, who celebrated her birthday on the day of the storm, said she was still waiting for her children and grandchildren to bring her the cake. She was coming out of the bathroom into her bedroom when she heard the howling sound.
“It sounded like whistling. I thought there was a falling aeroplane. I prayed briefly as I waited for the aeroplane to crash over my house,” she said. “The next thing I saw the roof lifting up.”
In a state of shock, Ms Ngxukuma said she stood motionless and unsure what to do until the storm passed before going out to assess the damage. Some of the neighbours were also coming around to see what had happened. The entire veranda was damaged and some sections of the house too.
She said her son who largely supported her passed away and she has nowhere to go. “I am stuck. I don’t know where to go,” she said. “What can I do? My pension money is simply not enough. I am leaving everything in God’s hands.”
A few metres from Ms Ngxukuma’s house, another pensioner, Lydia Nyembe, 65, was also counting the damages. She described the howling sound as scary. “I thought my carport was falling,” she said.
However, after the noise had died down she walked out to assess the damage. But the carport was intact, instead she noticed the damage to Ms Ngxukuma’s house. It was when she was at the house that she noticed that her roof was also damaged.
“I do not know what to do. I will wait and see if anyone can help. My money cannot fix the damage caused by the storm,” she said.
The City of Cape Town said the houses were privately owned and it could not provide any form of assistance.