City has abandoned townships

Benjamin Zantsi, Khayelitsha

Last week we heard that a City of Cape Town worker who had been out at Samora Machel to fix a burst pipe was shot and injured. The City has since suspended its services in the area.

This is my take: This is the City’s fault.

The City abandoned all townships, providing no drain maintenance or road maintenance for the past 12 months, leaving burst drains open and in some streets, faeces flowing, literally.

Site C is 1 perfect example of this. Somebody even referred to Site C as Kakamas! Samora, Dunoon, Delft and Mfuleni have also not been spared.

Once, in around June 2020, I was driving out of Samora, towards the direction of the SAPS College. I came across a part where there was literally no road, just water from what seemed to be a burst drain or pipe. I felt the car almost sink in that pit. Everyone was driving on the side of the road – a side that wasn’t smooth either. One could have easily been hijacked, because it was clear that I wasn’t from around there.

Months later I experienced the same in Makhaza, on Tutu Avenue, towards Noxolo Xauka Primary school. The situation lasted for months. I’m talking about a good 50m stretch on the road where there is no tar, and the road is covered with water.

I learned when the country was placed on Alert Level 2 that the City had long declared potholes and drains a non-essential service, meaning they had deliberately let those stand open.

This is shocking, if you realise that in a township, a pothole can be as big as a cave. Nangoku, in all the townships of Cape Town I’m sure you have seen a hole as big as the Big Hole in Kimberly, right in the middle of a road.

These potholes have opened a gap for potential hi-jacking.

But now, another gap has also been open, and this is where I link the Samora shooting of a City official. Amaphara have come up with an easy way of making money; you would see them on the road, with a cone, a bib, a shovel and a rake.

They have done relatively well in the past six to eight months in fixing up the roads for us, saving our tyres, with a cup in the hand for small change. I have seen them even temporarily “fix” the burst drains, redirecting the water that would be flowing on the street, for a better driving experience for us. And we are happy to give a R5 here and there. Where the municipality was not willing, amaphara came to our rescue.

Now, after half a year of not being visible, the City wants to come and do their job, and send the same guys who have been fixing the roads and drains for coins to the street corners?

I think they will have a struggle. The best approach the City can take would be to hire some of these local guys and blend them into the City’s road and stormwater maintenance staff, so that these guys can continue to make a living, as they have for the past six to eight months. Otherwise we are likely to have a problem of City staff being chased out of townships and us, the people, fighting over the opinions, while our townships continue to collapse into a state where our economy and our personal lives would be disturbed.

This is my simple take, based on observation and experience. We can either approach the City with an idea, or we can fold our arms, wait and see.