Plea to mayor for help

Willian Lewis, Fawzia Cassiem trying to cross the flooded street.

Last week’s heavy rain caused floods all over Cape Town, leaving many homes, roads and neighbourhoods flooded.

The Overcome Heights informal settlement is one of the hardest hit by floods every winter.

The informal settlement was started in 2005 and has over 6 000 dwellings.

Flooding has been worse at Overcome Heights after the roads in the community were upgraded in 2014.

The roads were gravelled by the City of Cape Town to make the settlement more accessible for cleaning and emergency vehicles and to prevent flooding.

The gravel was placed in a
V shape in an effort to slope the informal roads in a way that enabled water to run off to the nearest tar road which is St Patrick Street. The roads were also raised over the years by rubble build-up and homes have sunken, making them more susceptible to flooding.

For years residents have pleaded for the settlement to be upgraded, or for formal housing to be provided.

Last week they had an opportunity to voice their concerns to Mayor Dan Plato; mayoral committee member for human settlements, Grant Twigg; Ward 67 councillor Gerry Gordon and other City representatives after the first of the wintry floods.

William “Rasta” Lewis, vice-chairperson of the Overcome Heights committee, said residents were also promised reblocking, where the area would be rearranged to place structures in specific spaces with a toilet and electricity.

“Since 2005 nothing has been done for Overcome Heights and it was said that there is no money for housing. We are tired of living in hokkies, we need proper housing. We have identified so many pieces of land where houses can be built but there has been no answer from government. Are there any pans for housing for overcome heights in the pipeline?

“Our homes are flooding every time it rains and we are tired of living in mud and wet structures,” said Mr Lewis.

Community worker Karen Mentoor said people cannot continue with their day-to-day activities in Overcome Heights when it rained.

“The houses are flooded and people could not come out of their homes to go to school or work because their homes are constantly flooded,” she said.

The community has also asked that a vandalised sports centre in St Patrick Street be rezoned for housing.

Community worker Fawzia Cassiem said this would resolve some of the housing backlog.

“They can build us houses on that land and keep a piece for recreation,”she said.

Mr Plato said he would contact the roads department to address the flooding situation but said he is not able to give any feedback on when houses will be built in Overcome Heights.

“There were previously promises made to Overcome Heights as well as Vrygrond but I was not part of those promises. I am picking up all the pieces and that’s why I am visiting many communities and I am noting what was previously said and promised,” he said.

Mr Plato was referring to previous promises that those from Vrygrond and Overcome Heights would benefit from a new housing plan.

“Councillor Gordon will make a work study with regard to the vacant land lying around so that we can ascertain who the owners are and what the future plans are. We are appealing for residents to help the councillor with the work study. I will then take it back to the housing officials and then we will sit around the table to see what is the budget for Overcome Heights and Vrygrond and of course the availability of land and we will take it from there,” said Mr Plato.

Ms Gordon said in-fills had been set up in the area.

“We have requested for sand bags to help to keep the rain out while processes get going. Last year a channel was made at one of the main roads and it helps to a degree. The stormwater stagnates. There are plans to put channels in the other roads and more in-fills. The remaining work will be done in this financial year,” she said.

The mayor and other officials have asked for 14 days for them to take the necessary steps.

“I will speak to the senior housing officials to check what is in store for this region in terms of housing. In 14 days we will come back to the leadership and give feedback with a way forward,” said Mr Plato.

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