‘We can’t live like this’

Peter Jack, left, and Vuyokazi Malahle inspects a blocked drain at Nyanga hostels.

Nyanga hostel residents are fuming and have accused the City of Cape Town of failing to improve their dire living conditions, claiming their hostels are among the most neglected in the province.

They allege that it has been more than 10 years since they were promised their hostels would be rebuilt, but this has yet to happen.

The residents told Vukani that plans to develop and upgrade their hostels had first been tabled in 2007.

Livid residents and leaders of the Household and Masiphakame housing projects attended a heated meeting at Hlazo hall in Nyanga on Friday January 19, intent on raising their grievances and finding a way to address them.

They said they were still living in squalor and did not have any hope that their conditions could change soon.

Chairman of the Masiphakame housing project, Zekulunge Matshotsho, said for years they had been told the City was looking for money to upgrade their hostels.

He added that at some point they had been told the City had no land on which to build the hostels.

He, however, didn’t believe that was true.

He said what made them angry was that there were other hostels in nearby areas which had been developed while they had been waiting patiently for their turn.

During a tour of some of the hostels, Vukani saw leaking roofs and dilapidated structures. Mr Matshotsho said it was heartbreaking to see eight people, among them children, and sickly people, sharing a room in the filthy hostels.

He argued that, as leaders of the housing project, they had informed the City about their plight and questioned why there had been no progress in developing their area.

“There are people who have died while waiting for their homes. We can’t live like this. These living conditions are so inhumane.

“We have waited patiently but our pleas have fallen on deaf ears.”

Mr Matshotsho said they were planning to protest outside the Civic Centre in Cape Town and would sleep on its steps to get a response.

Mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, Brett Herron, said the City was in the middle of a procurement process to appoint a “multi-disciplinary professional consulting team to undertake the planning, design and construction monitoring services of our Hostel Transformation Programme and new Community Residential Unit developments”.

He said he had met with the residents and explained the process to them.

The bid evaluation process was under way and the plan was to transform a number of hostels simultaneously in the areas of Nyanga, Langa and Gugulethu.

The Nyanga hostels, including those in Hlazo Village, formed part of the plan and previously, developments and improvements had been done where they were most needed, he said.

The new procurement process, however, had been developed to expedite the process as the prioritisation model had proved to be taking too long because it focused on one area at a time. He said they would communicate the outcome of the bid evaluation process as soon as it had been concluded.

Resident Nontsapho Velele said it was time they showed the City they meant business and that it was the duty of the City to deliver services.

Had the hostels been occupied by white people, she argued, they might have been upgraded already.

She said she had been living in the hostels since she was a teen and they had always been in an awful state.

Deputy secretary of the Household Housing Project, Nomgqibelo Jaliso, said she shared her room at the hostel with eight people and had been living there since 1981.

Since then, she said, no steps had taken to improve their poor living conditions. Ms Jaliso said that they were merely demanding their rights as they had had enough of living in such atrocious conditions.