A visibly emotional Pamela Skaap, of Khayelitsha, says her life has been a living hell since her RDP house caught fire nearly six years ago.
The fire was believed to have been caused by an electrical fault, leaving the unemployed mother homeless.
She lost everything in the fire, but with the help of the Department of Correctional Services she managed to rebuild the house. She did not, however, know what to do with the mountain of rubble that remained on her property.
Battling to contain her tears, Ms Skaap said the uncollected rubble had ruined her relationship with some of her neighbours who accused her of breeding rats.
“Some called Law Enforcement officers who served me with a notice, a couple of weeks ago, instructing me to remove the rubble or face the wrath of the law. Some do not even speak to me because of this rubble,” she told Vukani.
Ms Skaap’s misery began in October 2012, when her house caught fire. “After the fire, I kept the rubble inside my yard because I did not know what to do with it,” she said. Two years later, councillor Mavis Mafoko advised her to take it out of the yard so that the department of solid waste could collected it – but they never did.
The 48-year-old said she made numerous futile attempts to remove the rubble, the latest of which was a visit to the municipal offices at the Stocks and Stocks building in February. She claimed they promised to look into her complaint and take appropriate steps, but this did not happen.
Ms Skaap told Vukani that if she had the money to do so, she would have hired a truck to collect the rubble.
Commenting on Ms Skaap’s situation, Ms Mafoko admitted that she had told Ms Skaap to take the rubble out of her yard because solid waste only collected rubble and waste on the streets, not from people’s yards.
“Ms Skaap has reported the matter to me numerous times, but I have also reported the matter to the sub-council,” she said. Ms Mafoko said numerous emails had been sent to the solid waste department, who said they do not collect rubble which has been left next to a house, only that which is on public open spaces.
Ms Mafoko said it’s not only Ms Skaap who is battling to get her rubble removed. She said the challenge is that the solid waste trucks are only deployed to Khayelitsha every three months or more.
Asked if there was anything she could do, she said:
“There is nothing much I can do about it because you need a truck to remove that rubble. I will continue to report the matter to the authorities and I hope to see the solid waste people cleaning and just beg them to remove that rubble,” she said.
Disaster risk management spokesperson, Charlotte Powell, said the City of Cape Town was unable to track down the details of the fire, and therefore could not confirm whether assistance had been requested or offered at the time.
However, she said given that this is private property, the City’s Disaster Risk Management risk centre would, on humanitarian grounds, provide assisistance to affected residents.
“The removal of any debris would therefore not be the responsibility of the Solid Waste Department. We urge the resident to contact our Disaster Operations Centre so that we may assist her. The centre’s number is 080 911 4357. Alternatively she can send an email at DisasterOperations.Centre@cape town.gov.za,” she said.