Residents of Phola Park informal settlement, in Philippi, are living in fear as “known and unknown” criminals wreak havoc in the neighbourhood’s dark streets.
While a lot of work has been done by the government to improve the lives of people in the area, which is adjacent to Golden Arrow bus terminus, on Sheffield Road, residents say they need further intervention.
They singled out the lack of street lighting as their main concern, along with frequent toilet blockages.
The area, one of the most impoverished communities with frequent winter flooding, recently underwent a major facelift which saw the covering of a toxic water canal.
The canal had been used as a dumping site for nappies and other rubbish, putting people’s lives – particularly those of children – at risk.
The upgrade brought joy to the residents, but it was short-lived.
Lights installed along the canal stopped working soon afterwards, while some of the toilets fixed as part of the upgrade, began backing up.
And for two years now, none of the lights in the area has been working.
Appeals for help have been in vain, leaving the community at the mercy of criminals and they are now calling for the deployment of police or soldiers in the area.
According to residents, who do not want to be identified for fear for their safety, lights in the area have been out for more than two years, with no intervention from government.
This has paved the way for criminals to torment residents, with most criminal activity taking place over weekends.
They are forced to lock themselves up from as early as 8pm.
One of the community leaders said they were pleased with work done by government, but were concerned about the ongoing failure to fix the lights.
She said there were constant efforts to fix the toilets and address problems with drainage in the area.
She said while residents also contributed to the problem, there were underlying problems with the canal and, she claimed, municipal workers refused to help, focusing their efforts on the toilets only.
Another resident said everyone in the community was concerned about the crime. “We cannot even go to the shop. There is crime every where,” she said.
“People are robbed everywhere. The situation is so bad that you cannot be on the street after eight,” she said. “There are shootings everywhere.”
Another resident said the criminals were known in the area, but people could not identify them in the dark.
“They also know us,” she said. “It is difficult to speak out openly about them. Some are known to the community.”
ANC ward councillor Siphiwo Nqamnduku blamed the City of Cape Town for “poor service” delivery. He said Phola Park and all the surrounding areas experienced similar problems and that he had personally informed the City of the problems. He claimed in his last meeting with municipal officials they had promised to address the problems last week.
“But that has not happened,” he said. “All they do is make promises, promises, promises. To be honest their service is poor. You have to fight with them to get them to come here. Even when they come they come after a long delay. This makes living difficult for everyone, particularly the toilets.”
* Vukani referred this matter to the City of Cape Town, but by the time this edition went to print, they had not yet responded.