Ongoing land invasions near Dunoon threaten future road expansions, says the City of Cape Town.
Since early last year, shiny tin shanties started mushrooming on municipal land along Malibongwe Drive. The people who live there call it ZweZwe.
Some of the shacks have been built under electricity pylons and against the kerb.
The site is about the size of 60 rugby fields and, according to the City, is part of the Diep River floodplain.
Malusi Booi, mayoral committee member for human settlements, says the land is to be used for future road expansions.
The authorities have removed many of the shanties, but more soon spring up to replace them.
Heavy rains flooded ZweZwe last month, and Mr Booi said most of the settlements that had been flooded in the city were land-invasion sites.
“This is an example of why the City acts to prevent people from settling on unsuitable land, which includes flood-prone land, which leads to the extreme flooding which we’ve experienced in recent weeks.”
The City says land grabs across Cape Town are threatening R1.3 billion worth of municipal housing projects.
The invasion along Malibongwe Drive posed a different type of threat, Mr Booi said.
“It holds risks and cost for the City should the City have to assist when flooding occurs, and it also impedes the future expansion of the road, which is part of the planned way of managing urban development and expansion. Unplanned settlements are bad for all of Cape Town and our communities.”
Victoria Mqumbisa moved her shack from Dunoon to ZweZwe a few months ago. She said she knew the land was not ideal to live on, but her new rent-free home was bigger than the R700-a-month room she had shared with her five children in Dunoon.
Flooding has forced Ms Mqumbisa to move her shack twice to drier ground. Recent rainfall has flooded her place once again, but she said she did not have the energy to move again.
Her shack is ankle deep in murky water. Blankets and clothes float in it. The bed on bricks is the only piece of furniture to escape the deluge.
“We keep voting for a better life, but we don’t get it,” Ms Mqumbisa said.
Law enforcement had come twice in the past month to clear the shacks, she said.
“If you are not in your house, they knock it down, but if you are there, they don’t touch it.”
Divisions over “politics” had also emerged in the settlement, and a breakaway community called Endlovini had sprung up, she said, although she was reluctant to go into detail about what had led to the split.
David Ayres, of the Greater Table View Action Forum, accused the City of not doing enough to improve the lives of the poor.
“Our people are being forced to live in squalid conditions without basic services. The land they occupy is very often not suitable for habitation. The result is an increase in pollution and the constant misery of flooding and the threat of eviction. These are just the conditions we see around the Diep River. The City of Cape Town, whilst legally obligated to produce development plans that address spatial-planning imbalances, have done little to present a credible plan. Instead they continue to push a development agenda that marginalises the poor and removes the property rights of others. It has decided to pursue a development agenda that brings profit for developers and misery for the people of Cape Town.”