Flood destroys homes

South Africa - Cape Town - 11 July 2020 - Informal homes build next to the Dieprivier in Dunoon were flooded after heavy rainfall. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Hundreds of people in Dunoon have been left with their belongings damaged by gale force winds and floods over the weekend.

Across the province, informal settlements and other vulnerable communities were rocked by heavy winds and rainfall. In Dunoon’s Zwelitsha informal settlement, flood water filled people’s shacks, destroying some of their belongings. According to Charlotte Powell from the City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management department the settlement had been flooded completely as residents built their dwellings on a floodplain.

“Disaster management has appealed to residents to move their structures out of the floodplain. No engineering will assist this community as a floodplain is a natural water course,” she said.

Residents of Zwezwe (as locals call it), say that they don’t know what to do. Cynthia Magwa said often when there are floods, the water is up to their knees but they somehow manage.

“This time, everything is destroyed. My bed and all the bedding is damaged. My TV, cupboards – everything.

“It’s so easy for the City or people from other neighbourhoods to look down on us and just tell us to move. But where do we go? The whole reason we are here is because there is nowhere else to go for us,” she said.

Malusi Booi, the City’s mayoral committee member for human settlements, said the residents of Zwezwe had illegally occupied that land. He said the land was never suitable for occupation and one of the harmful effects is flooding.

“It must be noted that illegal land invasions are against the law and pose great fire, safety, health and flood risks as is the case here. Having various new settlements forming in an unplanned manner also poses a risk to the City’s informal settlements Covid-19 response,” he said.

Mr Booi said the City also has no budget allocated to potential new unplanned settlements formed through illegal occupation and that these illegal actions impact poorly on service delivery to other residents.

Another Zwezwe resident, Michael Chisane, asked why the City doesn’t help develop the land and make it more suitable to live on. “Perhaps they can build services here for us in the area so that we can at least have a fighting chance when disasters like this happen. I know that many don’t want us here but what are we to do? We paid for these materials. Some used their savings to get materials just to put a roof over their families’ heads. Most of us here are not bad people. We just need some help from the government,” he said.

Mr Booi said they may not install or build infrastructure on privately-owned land without the strict permission of the owners. “This particular area is situated on a wetland and despite numerous efforts by the owner and the City to protect this land, invasion has continued to take place,” he said.

There are organisations like the Be Kind Foundation, a non-profit that was recently started by mother and daughter, Mandy and Jesicca Robertson. The organisation helps families in need with clothes and food.

Mandy said she had contacted the City’s Disaster Risk Management department and was told that the department can’t do anything to help and that the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) was assisting the residents.

“We are just looking to get assistance for these people. Today (Tuesday July 14), we are going to Zwelista and other parts of Dunoon. We have about 600 oranges and 110 litres of spaghetti bolognaise we will be delivering to families there. We wish that the government would do a bit more to help residents who are in need,” said Mandy.

The City advised residents to call 021 480 7700 from a cellphone or 107 from a landline in the event of a flood-related emergency.