Opinion: Blinkers dorp

24 11 2009

November 23, 2009 Edition 1 – Cape Times

CAPE TOWN mayor Dan Plato’s response to the angry residents of Blikkiesdorp does him no credit.

On a visit to the site last week, all the mayor could find to say to those complaining of conditions in Blikkiesdorp was that in fact the settlement was “among the best” of its kind in the city.
He described disgruntled residents as “ungrateful” and said those who were not happy with conditions in the camp were free to move.

Plato points out that Eskom is in the process of supplying electricity to Blikkiesdorp, that health officials inspect the site weekly, that a weekly refuse removal service and daily cleaning services are provided by the city and that there are two clinics within walking distance.

Blikkiesdorp, he says, compares favourably with other settlements with respect to services, shelter, environment and density. So much so, in fact, that the city is “inundated” with requests from the public for accommodation in the area.

Perhaps. But Blikkiesdorp is still a grim place where no one should have to live, a desolate settlement of one-room huts, where families share outside toilets and water taps, with little privacy, no trees and nowhere for children to play.

No one expects the mayor to come up with an overnight solution to the city’s housing crisis, and camps – or temporary relocation areas, as they are officially known – of some sort may be necessary in the short term. But to tell people living in cramped corrugated iron sheds in the middle of the sand, with nowhere to shelter from the summer sun, that they are better off than people in places like Masiphumelele or Happy Valley is absurd.

That there may be even worse places than Blikkiesdorp in this city is irrelevant. That the mayor may have had to wade knee-deep in water when he visited Mfuleni is irrelevant. If, as Plato says, people do indeed “thank” him for housing them in Blikkiesdorp, that is merely a reflection of even more appalling conditions elsewhere.

In view of the blinkered attitude of the mayor, it is hardly surprising that the police have warned that Blikkiesdorp is not safe for politicians.

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