Angry residents of Chris Hani informal settlement, in Site C, have vowed to intensify their fight for service delivery in the coming days if the government fails to address their grievances.
On Monday May 29, the residents barricaded a section of the N2 between the R300 and R102, with rubbish bags, heavy metal and stones, demanding electricity and improved service delivery.
Traffic on the N2 was severely affected, with motorists in both carriageways being diverted.
Residents had started barricading the road from as early as 2am and the road remained closed on Monday morning, as law enforcement agencies tried to contain the situation.
Residents complained that while they had been living in the area for more than 20 years, their community had never been electrified, and accused ward councillor Ntomboxolo Kopman of ignoring their pleas.
Residents said they had been forced to use candles for lighting and paraffin stoves to cook and some residents had resorted to making illegal electricity connections.
They were, however, struggling to pay the high costs people charged for these connections.
Community leader, Xolani Bushula, said officials from the City of Cape Town and provincial government conducted a site inspection two years ago to determine whether their area was suitable for electrification. He said previously, they had been told that because their area was built on a wetland, the government could not electrify it. That, however, had later changed, he said.
Mr Bushula said they had held a number of meetings with the City to sort out their challenges.
“Last month, we lost two people who died due to burning candlesticks falling. We were shocked to hear that there was a rumour that this area was not going to be electrified even though we were made to believe that it was going to be part of the areas to be connected with electricity,” he said.
“Ambulances and police officers are unable to render services to our area because it is dark and there are no streets. We simply demand basic services,” he said.
Resident, Nofanelo Bangani, said she was paying R450 a month for electricity. She said she had been living in the area for 22 years now and nothing seemed to be done to improve their living conditions. With winter looming, Ms Bangani said it was a battle for may residents to keep their homes warm.
Ward councillor Ntomboxolo Kopman said during another site inspection in the area last week, she discovered that some shacks had occupied part of the road reserve. She said when the officials conducted the first site inspection, about 50 people had been living there and that it had been suggested that they be allocated plots. However, she said, the number of people living there had grown, making it difficult for leaders to give all of them land.
She said the City agreed that electricity would be provided, but the proper process had to be followed.
Meanwhile, the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry said Monday’s protest had reached a new and “unacceptable level” and that when a main route into the City was blocked and people prevented from going to work it was no longer a protest “but an economically damaging action”.
Chamber president Janine Myburgh said the people most affected were workers who could not afford to lose a day’s wages and businesses which provided the jobs and kept the economy going.
“This kind of violent, disruptive action is self-defeating. If protesters want better service delivery they should protest to the authorities responsible for the services and not to the public. Many of those affected are also victims of poor service,” she said.
Asked for the City’s input, Anda Ntsodo, the mayoral committee member for area east, said the City could not comment on the provision of electricity to the area as the whole of Khayelitsha is supplied with electricity by Eskom.
“Therefore Eskom needs to be contacted,” he said.
Furthermore, Mr Ntsodo said: “The City is still engaging the Western Cape Government on the land ownership status of the Chris Hani informal settlement in the area of Site C, Khayelitsha. As soon as we receive feedback, we will engage Eskom for their assessment of the settlement and only then will we be able to provide an outcome or way forward to the community.”