Media: Electricity issue sparks outrage in Blikkiesdorp

20 10 2009

October 16, 2009 Edition 1 – Cape Times
ANEL LEWIS and MARY-ANNE GONTSANA

WITH hopes of finding an alternative to Blikkiesdorp dashed, members of the Symphony Way Anti-Eviction Campaign will today meet with the City of Cape Town about the terms of the relocation of people living illegally on the pavement in Delft.

But the community has indicated that a relocation as soon as Monday will not be possible until several conditions are in place.
Campaign chairman Ashraf Cassiem said the community had accepted the city’s position that Blikkiesdorp in Delft was the only available temporary relocation area (TRA) for the pavement dwellers.

But, he said the dwellers “would not even think about moving” if the site was not serviced with electricity. There also had to be at least one tap for every four families.

The city has been given an undertaking by Eskom to electrify Blikkiesdorp by December 21.

Eskom spokeswoman Marcelle Adams said: “Phase one of Blikkiesdorp has electricity, phase two will be electrified by December, but only 50 percent of it, the rest will receive electrification once their homes are handed over to Eskom for the process.”

Campaign leaders and the city’s housing officials have been locked in mediation talks for most of the week, following a Cape High Court order that they had until Monday, October 19, to reach agreement on the relocation dates and other issues.

Acting Judge Jake Moloi ruled on October 7 that the group of residents living unlawfully on the pavement area of Symphony Way in Delft must move to the city’s TRA of Blikkiesdorp.

The city has maintained throughout this week’s discussions that an alternative location was “not on the cards”.

Initially, the pavement dwellers refused to accept that Blikkiesdorp was the only option, citing the “inhumane” conditions at the site.

Head of the city’s anti-land invasion unit Stephen Hayward said Blikkiesdorp was the only piece of land available to the city and that the judge had corroborated this when he visited the site.

Hayward said it appeared as if one or two people would move to the site, but the rest had refused to budge.

Judge Moloi gave the city and the Anti-Eviction Campaign until yesterday to complete their discussions. The agreement must then be placed before the court by Monday so it can consider whether it would be appropriate to issue a court order.

But if there is no settlement, the pavement dwellers will have to relocate to Blikkiesdorp in four groups, starting on Monday with the last group moving by November 6.

Cassiem said the group would not consider relocation timetables until their conditions had been met.

Blikkiesdorp is one of Cape Town’s most poverty-stricken areas.

No electricity, no proper toilets and vandalism are just some of the problems that plague the temporary relocation area dubbed Blikkiesdorp.

It has row upon row of corrugated-iron one-room huts within metres of one another.

Gerald Flagg, chairman of the residents’ committee in Blikkiesdorp, said: “I have been living here for a year and a half now and nothing’s changed. There are continuous health and safety problems.”

He said many in Blikkiesdorp were suffering either from TB or HIV but were not receiving healthcare.

“I would not recommend anyone to come Blikkies unless they do not have any other option,” Flagg said.

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