Problems require political solutions

Edward Hector, Milnerton

The article “Elections: little hope for change in Joe Slovo”, Tabletalk, September 22, refers.

I write as a property owner and business owner operating from Democracy Way, Montague Gardens, which borders on Joe Slovo.

For over 10 years now we have seen a steady decline in the Joe Slovo area which will inevitably create a slum. No doubt there will be continuous finger pointing between the City of Cape Town and the residents regarding who is to blame for the current situation.

While residents may be to blame for overcrowding and blocked sewers, ultimately the City has to shoulder the blame for its failure to manage a situation where urbanisation is a challenge that every developing country will face.

You have to have the political will to want to tackle a situation and none of the authorities seem willing to want to tackle Joe Slovo and soon Democracy Way and Freedom Way will no longer be safe for the average car to travel despite these wonderful post-apartheid street names.

Joe Slovo is a microcosm of the broader problems faced by political authority, if you cannot get this one square kilometre right how can you deal with the much larger informal areas mushrooming around the Western Cape?

The City has the building inspectors and law enforcement available but poorer areas do not receive the same attention as wealthier areas.

In the midst of a drought in 2018 when the City could not guarantee water supply it imposed an administrative penalty on Milnerton Mediclinic for sinking a borehole and installing tanks to provide water security for the hospital. This would have happened because a building inspector drove past and saw a structure that had no impact on adjoining properties but yet chose to take action.

A kilometre down the road in Joe Slovo, formal structures are built illegally in contravention of by-laws, illegal electrical cables are clearly visible, taxis fail to observe robot signals and informal structures are built on the pavements. Drug use takes place in broad daylight on the pavements of Omuramba Road.

In October last year five people were shot and killed in the area, in August one person was killed at the taxi rank and this past week three people were killed in a taxi shooting, all in Joe Slovo.

A beautiful school hall was burnt in protest action in July 2020 while 50 houses were destroyed in a fire in September 2019. All the MyCiTi bus stops have been destroyed or damaged in the area, clinics and community halls have been burnt and a park for children now has informal shacks covering the whole area.

Yes, sewers overflow every week in the area, a model of low-cost residential urban planning development of Marconi Beam, Phoenix and Joe Slovo is slowly being turned into a slum. It is close to job opportunities, a transport node, schools and clinics, shops and a police station. The only reason for the failure is the City and police’s inability to uphold the law.

Prevent overcrowding and you will not overload the sewerage system, police the taxis and you will reduce the killings.

These problems require political solutions, the legal residents in these areas deserve more from the authorities.

Joe Slovo is one of many examples where the law is applied differently just two streets away.