Informal settlement residents dread winter

Lusanda Phuthuma says the floor of their house is always cold and wet.

As Cape Town braces itself for a rainy winter season, many Capetonians in low-lying areas are bracing themselves for months of mayhem.

Taiwan resident, Nomandithini Phuthuma, is one of thousands across the province who are waiting anxiously for the rain. She had been staying in Taiwan for two years. She labelled their living conditions as “horrible”.

The unemployed 54 -year-old mother of three shares a tiny three-roomed shack with her three children and three grandchildren.

She moved from Site C into the area in 2016 because she could not afford to pay rent .

Ms Phuthuma said she needed to live in her own space.

But her move came with costs. She said moving into the neighbourhood, she had to battle winter challenges including constant flooding.

Although the province recorded little rain last year, Ms Phuthuma described last year’s winter as bad for them.

She said her belongings such as cupboards and wardrobes were damaged by the water.

She said they battled to do anything as the floors were always wet.

“I suffer from arthritis and these conditions make things worse. Sometimes my legs would be swollen. It feels like we are living in a pigsty,” she said.

Ms Phuthuma said summer also presented its challenges. She said spaces between their shacks were too small, and that made them prone to fires. She said last year 18 shacks were destroyed by fire, but she was lucky because it was put out before it reached her shack.

She said fire engines could not move into the area because of narrow spaces between shacks.

But their misery could soon be a thing of the past.

Last week the City of Cape Town announced plans to deal with challenges faced by areas such as Taiwan and many low-lying areas, particularly along the N2 highway.

JP Smith, Mayco member for safety and security; and social services, said the City’s Flooding and Storms Task Team has completed its annual flood risk assessment – a key element of the City’s winter readiness plan.

He said that 29 informal settlements were considered high-risk because of their location. He said some of these were situated in wetlands, ponds and natural water-courses.

Mr Smith said the plan would be to relocate such areas on higher grounds. He said parts of the N1, N2 and R300 highways have also been identified as flood risks.

He added that roadworks to mitigate some of the risks were under way.

He noted that although Cape Town is in the midst of a drought and winter rainfall patterns could not be predicted with certainty, flooding is a known hazard in the city and a number of departments were working hard to mitigate the impact of such incidents in the coming months.

Community leader, Noxolo Filika, said they did not have electricity, taps and toilets. She said they are forced to connect electricity illegally.

Ms Filika said they were forced to fetch water from other sections.