Recent floods destroy property and swamp homes

Joe Slovo was left in a state after floods tore through the area last week.

Dunoon and Joe Slovo residents say they have had sewage running into their homes since the storms last week.

They say this is part of a bigger housing issue in their communities and this will happen every time there are massive rains because the City of Cape Town’s drainage system has failed them for too long.

Last week, two days of heavy rains caused flooding all over the metro, according to the City’s Disaster Risk Management Centre (DRMC) spokeswoman, Charlotte Powell.

“Flooding has been reported in the Gugulethu, Macassar Village, Philippi East and Joe Slovo in Milnerton. DRMC will conduct assessments and activate the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) to provide soft relief if required. Weather-related power outages have been reported in these areas,” she said.

Joe Slovo community leader, Mzimkhulu Sopeni, said Dunoon and Joe Slovo have been neglected for too long and this is the result of that.

“The streets are flooded. The rains last week just made it worse. There’s sewage flowing in the streets more than ever before. Someone needs to be held accountable for what is happening in these two areas.

“A few years ago, there was a big City project on the corners of Freedom Way and Democracy to clean the sewerage system and repair some pipes. But as a resident of Joe Slovo, I can tell you things have gotten worse. And I know they will just blame the residents, but this is bigger than that. Accountability needs to be taken on all fronts, especially by those who govern,” he said.

Joe Slovo residents say they avoided being outside altogether last week because of the state of the roads. Thando Mqhele said he lives in an informal settlement, Siqalo, and couldn’t get out of his shack because of rain and poo water outside his door.

“It was just a mess last week. I see they’ve cleaned the roads because I noticed a truck over the weekend that was trying to clear the drains. But the damage has been done to people’s homes. How can we be expected to live like this?” he said.

Residents of Joe Slovo said sewage flooded the streets more than ever in the community after last week’s storm.

Caroline Marx, head of the environmental portfolio of the Milnerton Central Ratepayers’ Association, said the housing shortage has caused massive overcrowding in Joe Slovo.

“The sewerage system doesn’t cope so there are frequent overflows which are made much worse by people putting things which don’t belong into the system like disposable nappies. So, even when a blockage is cleared, it happens again very quickly. But having sewage repeatedly pouring into the streets for weeks is unacceptable. It’s a major health hazard, pollutes our beautiful river and beaches and causes jobs and opportunities to be lost. A better way has to be found,” she said.

In Zwelitsha informal settlement, residents are still carrying out mopping operations after floods damaged homes and property. Zanele Khwatsha, said she has been living in the settlement for the past year and has lost a lot in the past two winters she has lived there.

“It’s easy for people to judge and question why we are here but people don’t have anywhere to go. I have an 8-year-old daughter who needs a roof over her head and food in her stomach. I’m doing the best I can but we have lost much of our property to water damage last year and this year,” she said.

Dunoon residents also faced similar experiences but some say they aren’t living in informal settlements but still had to deal with sewage flowing in their homes. Asavela Hamani, lives near Mnandi Street in Dunoon and said there was a flood last week that caused sewage water to flow in her home.

“My TV, heater, washing machine, bed and couches are ruined. The City always says people who live in shacks should stop putting up their structures on land not meant for people to live on but what happens now when we still have this happen to us in formal housing? Whose fault is this now?

“We have elderly people and children living in our community. We can’t have them exposed to all kinds of diseases. We now have to clean the drains in our neighbourhoods to avoid our homes flooding but the City is supposed to provide that service,” she said.

According to Mayco member for finance and deputy mayor, Ian Neilson, residents who have damaged property can submit a claim to the City’s Insurance Claims Section. He said people should provide invoices and photographs showing the damaged property. Residents can get a liability claim form online at http://www.capetown.gov.za/City-Connect/Claim-or-dispute/Complaints-and-claims-against-the-City/Submit-a-claim-against-the-City

Mayco member for human settlements, Malusi Booi, said the majority of unlawful occupations have happened on land that is not suitable for human habitation. He said these areas are flood-prone wetlands, low-lying areas and even in water-retention ponds.

“Highly-densified areas without planned and dedicated emergency access ways make it difficult to deliver basic and emergency services in particularly times of fire and floods. Often the settlements are formed on private land or land where services cannot or may not be delivered. The City does what it can to deliver housing opportunities, upgrade informal settlements and prepare for flooding and other natural disasters, and partnerships are key,” he said.

Tips from the City’s human settlements department on how to reduce flood risk:

– Clear out drainage systems

– Raise the floor level of a structure so that it is higher than the natural ground level

– Make sandbags

– Dig trenches around the house to divert water away from the house

– Report blocked drains, intakes and illegal dumping; illegal dumping in the stormwater canals and sewers make flooding worse

– Waterproof roofs, clear gutters and remove dead tree branches