Sinking manhole threatens Island settlement shacks

The ground around a manhole in Island Informal Settlement is collapsing, but the City can’t get to it because shacks are built too close to the sewer.

Nomiselo Sirhayi, a resident of Island Informal settlement in Site C, says she fears for the safety of her family after cracks started appearing in her floor two weeks ago.

She believes the problem stems from a nearby sewer, the ground around which has started collapsing.

Some of her neighbours, she said, have also noticed their floors starting to cave in.

When Vukani visited the area last week, concerned community leaders and some residents had gathered around the area to assess the extent of the damage while seeking help for the affected residents.

More than 30 families have decided to move out of the area due to this collapsing draining pipe which is causing damage to the foundation of their shacks.

A visibly emotional Nomiselo Sirhayi battled to contain her emotions as she explained the impact of the sewer pipe.

Ms Sirhayi said the situation had forced to seek refuge at a local church because she feared that her three-roomed shack would cave in.

And, she said, she was concerned about what would happen to her belongings if her shack collapsed.

“Part of the floor collapsed while we were sleeping on Saturday night and luckily none of us was injured, but I have lost some belongings,” said Ms Sirhayi.

“I have six children and I’m always fearful for their safety, that they might fall into the hall and die. We are not safe and my fear is that this shack might collapse while we are fast asleep and only God knows what would happen to us.

“The City has been promising us time and again to move us to temporary houses but till this day we are still here and none of the City officials have come to explain why it is taking so long for us to be moved to other areas,” she claimed.

Mayoral committee member for water and sanitation, Zahid Badroodien, said the City’s water and sanitation directorate was aware of the collapsed sewer that needs to be repaired. Every effort was being made to repair the collapsed sewer in the shortest possible time, he said.

However, he added, illegal occupation of land around the sewers made it difficult to access them. “The directorate is concerned about the ongoing unlawful occupation that limits access to manholes and other underground infrastructure because it impacts the level of service that we can offer residents,” said Dr Badroodien.

He added that he was aware that the City’s Human Settlements directorate was engaging with the affected residents in the area, among others, to come up with relocation solutions as the sewer can only be repaired if the structures were relocated.

Community leader, Xolani Dywili assesses the extent of the damage caused by the sinking sewer pipe in Site C.

Community leader, Xolani Dywili, said they had made several impassioned pleas to the City officials to act quickly before the problem worsened.

He said they wanted the affected residents to be moved so that the City could resolve this issue as a matter of urgency.

Mayoral committee member for Human Settlements, Malusi Booi, said the City of Cape Town’s informal settlements department was engaging with the affected residents as the infrastructure that required repair was dependent on the site being cleared for the work to be done.

Residents of this particular area unlawfully built structures over sewer infrastructure, which is to the detriment of all, he said.

“Progress is being made as it pertains to the relocation and the City hopes for a resolution soon if all stakeholders continue to work together.”