By Vuyo Mabandla – Weekend Argus 25 July 2009, 08:47
Residents in Cape Town’s informal settlements say political rivalry and negligence by leaders over a number of years, – and not direct political influence – are behind the spate of violent protests in the city in the past few weeks.
Residents of QQ section in Site B, Khayelitsha, said provincial, municipal and local leaders dating to former mayor Nomaindia Mfeketho’s time in office, had done nothing but “fight over positions and not attend (to) the people’s troubles”.
Mzonke Poni, the chairman of lobby group Abahlali Basemjondolo, said the group had complained about lack of service delivery for years.
“But because of political rivalry between the DA and ANC nothing has ever been done to address problems facing people in informal settlements. I have lost count of how many times we went to (municipal offices in) Cape Town, to put forward the people’s complaints, who are, by the way, living like animals in this township,” he said.
There has been speculation that the protests were fuelled by party loyalists who were against the province’s new leadership.
Referring to the violent protests by residents at the section two weeks ago, Poni said he believed there had been no political influence, saying that “whoever said that is misinformed”.
The protests by QQ residents two weeks ago were one of many that have rocked the country recently.
This week, the ANC identified the 12 “hotspots” where protests broke out. The party claimed that only seven of them were “genuine protests about service delivery”.
But Poni disputed this, saying the fault lay with the ANC leadership.
“Whenever the ANC government fails to deliver, it comes up with excuses and blames it on individuals. It’s true that its councillors lack commitment and skills, but it is the national leadership that is also to blame – and meanwhile people have to suffer. The only way the government notices us is when we express our anger and rage, then they understand how we feel.”
But ANC councillor Elsie Kwayinto blamed the lack of service delivery on what she said were “constant changes in data lists and leadership at government structures”.
“We need a single, permanent list of people who the municipality can keep track of when services are delivered. Changes in leadership also add to the delays,” she said.
When the Weekend Argus visited the settlement on Thursday, uncollected rubbish dotted Lansdowne Road. The aftermath of the recent storms was still visible and some shacks were still flooded with water.
Resident Funake Mkhwambi, 57, who has lived in QQ section for the past 20 years, said she had to deal with flooding every year.
“My shack gets flooded every year. I have to move every winter to stay with my cousins elsewhere. We are a family of eight, including five children who often get sick because of the cold and the dirty water.”
Another resident, Nolufefe Nomakhohliso, said she lived in fear of being attacked by gangsters at night because they often drank at a tavern close to her shack.
“I don’t feel safe here – at all. And because of the noise and the brawling that goes on here at night, I have to sleep with one eye open.”
Community leader Bongisiso Magubudela said leaving for work in the mornings was a struggle.
“I leave at dawn and when I open the door, water comes rushing in – it never drains out.”
The settlement is on top of a small hill, there are no toilets, only three taps are available and shacks are built too close to one another.
Poni said: “Forty percent of the shacks are built in flood-prone areas.”
He also said during Kwayinto and Helen Zille’s visit in 2006, the councillor had promised to move them to developed land in Mfuleni in the same year but nothing happened.
However, Kwayinto denied ever saying this. She said she only knew of the plans once she had a meeting with Abahlali after the visit.
She refused to comment on whether the protests may have been politically motivated, only saying she would address the people at a meeting still due to be scheduled.
Kwayinto also said although she was not sure when services would be delivered to the residents, she, the housing committee and Dan Plato’s office, were in the process of doing something about the problem.
* This article was originally published on page 4 of Saturday Argus on July 25, 2009