Residents remove fire hazard alien vegetation

Cavalla Dorp residents: Lesley-Anne Abrahams, Patricia Abrahams and Emile Kader.

Staff and volunteers at the Early Learning Resource Unit (ELRU) have been helping to remove alien vegetation around the Cavalla Dorp informal settlement in Steenberg.

The residents say the Port Jackson trees and other alien vegetation around their 27 shacks are a fire hazard and conceal both criminals and snakes.

Residents are afraid to fetch water from the camp’s three communal taps at night because they’re afraid of snakes.

Elru is a non-profit organisation based in Lansdowne that is involved with early childhood develop-
ment.

The volunteers first visited the community for Mandela Day in July and then returned on Saturday August 24 to finish the job they had started. “Elru’s Mandela Day initiative seemed to give the Cavalla Dorp community a healthy boost of morale and a sense of purpose. The residents’ enthusiasm took us quite by surprise,” said Elru spokeswoman, Carolyn Clark.

“We turned around and a group of men were managing the wood chipper while women were still in their onesies, dragging bushes and rubbish bags, and getting their children to help. Everyone was so hands-on and involved.”

Cavalla Dorp resident Lesley-Anne Abrahams said the last fire they had was in February.

“The fires often spread to the shacks, the wind blows them, they come from those trees over there,” she said, pointing to the Port Jackson trees, “but the one that happened in February, someone was cooking their food on the stones and bricks and that started the fire.

“I remember a bakkie burnt down, and one of our people’s dog and cat also died but luckily no one died.

“Over the 40 years this place has been here there have been many fires and people have died before. The only thing is we’re small so we don’t really get attention.”

The residents said that earlier this year they had been supplied with fire extinguishers by the City of Cape Town.

But Ms Abrahams said she would rather have a fire alarm as it was a more preventative measure.

Another resident, Crystal Gates, said that seven years ago her father had been stabbed to death by thieves hiding among the trees as he had been returning home from work.

“I don’t like to talk about it, but my father was killed as he was walking back home. These big trees are very dangerous for everyone here. We would protest about our situation, it’s not nice, but we’re too few. There’s only about 250 of
us.”