More than 100 residents from various informal settlements in Khayelitsha held a peaceful picketing protest outside the premises of Khayelitsha Training Centre, demanding the City of Cape Town respond to why they had suddenly stopped providing fire kits or material to fire victims.
The picketing on Friday February 12 was organised by ANC activists and residents brandished placards.
Residents said it was unbelievable that a City which claims to be a caring municipality would stop providing this crucial service to the poorest of the poor during their time of need.
They argued that these fire kits and material play a critical role in helping many families to rebuild their homes after fires. But this is not the only burning issue that bothered the residents.
They also lambasted the City for its sluggish service delivery pace, particularly relating to housing provision and water and sanitation in Khayelitsha.
Lonwabo Mqina, one of the organisers, said the withdrawal of the fire kits by the City clearly shows that they do not care about Khayelitsha residents.
Mr Mqina said Khayelitsha is one of the areas which has a high number of informal settlements and is prone to massive fires due to the density of the shacks.
He said this decision means that the City could not care less about the plight of black people. It is now more evident that the City does not care about Khayelitsha when it comes to providing basic service delivery, he said.
Mr Mqina said not having enough budget means nothing because the City could have provided an alternative solution.
“The decision for the City to do that is politically motivated and Khayelitsha is an area that votes for the ANC. I think they are punishing Khayelitsha voters because they do not vote for the DA.
“It is us, the poorest of the poor, who needs this intervention and we do not vote for them hence they opted to stop this. I can guarantee you that should the City ignore us, we will close the entire province and make it ungovernable.
“It makes no sense that people have to collect water from the taps at night because during the day there is no water.
“By doing that they put their (residents’) lives at risk and water is one of the basic needs and yet the same ’caring’ municipality is depriving us of that right.
“Put politics aside and render the basic service to our people – that is all we ask,” he said.
Mr Mqina said they wanted to hand their memorandum of grievances to Cape Town mayor Dan Plato but he didn’t come out to the centre even though they informed him about the picketing.
Malusi Booi, the mayoral committee member for human settlements, said every instance of fire is assessed and a specific approach is developed as all instances will have unique circumstances.
The City still enables and facilitates soft relief, such as donations, site clearing, verification and assessments for assistance.
Furthermore, Mr Booi said as per what the City has been communicating, until recently, the City provided relief kits to residents in informal settlements and some backyarders affected by fires. He said this was subject to funding and in particular grant funding from the national government.
“The City until recently was the only metro in South Africa to provide enhanced fire kits to fire-affected residents as an additional service, outside of formal declared disasters. It was paid with the national grant funding. Now there is no more money.Traditionally, we did so to enhance turnaround times and offer assistance where we could. We continue to look at all options and we’re still providing assistance where we can,” he said.
Patrick Mgxunyeni, Sub-council 10 chairman, received the memorandum on behalf of the mayor and promised that he would ensure that the memorandum would reach the mayor’s office.
Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for water and waste, said the City has provided temporary services to 173 informal settlements across Cape Town established prior to the pandemic, including 24 settlements in Khayelitsha, from the start of the lockdown as part of the emergency response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
She said the City has consulted with the relevant sub-councils and their ward councillors on the plans to change the frequency of the water delivery and the changes in service providers.
“The frequency of delivery is based upon available resources to deliver water. Currently the informal settlements are receiving water every three or four days. The City is trying to manage this process to ensure an equitable distribution of resources across all settlements,” she said.
Another ANC activist, Duduzile Nenemba, said the City should make it clear if it no longer sees Khayelitsha residents as part of the City of Cape Town.