Skeemsaam families plead for services

Residents are blaming the poor lighting after a man was shot and killed at the informal settlement last month.

Residents at Skeemsaam have taken up the issue of a lack of services with the City of Cape Town once again after a man was shot and killed at the informal settlement.

More than 40 families live at the settlement on the corner of Acacia Road and Falcon Way after occupying the open piece of land in February 2016. After several violent protests, the court granted an order which allowed only a certain number of dwellings to remain on the land which is reserved for a road (“Skeemsaam residents to move”, Southern Mail, March 8, 2017).

Malusi Booi the City’s Mayco member for human settlements, said this had been an illegal occupation of City land.

The interim interdict effectively prevented further illegal invasion of the land. Since then the City of Cape Town has provided 29 toilets and nine taps for those living at the settlement. Some residents have, however, said the services were not enough and that there was a desperate need for electricity.

Robert Amos said they appreciated the services which had been provided, but more was needed: “We’ve been living here for almost five years and we still don’t have the services that are needed. At night it is so dark here and gangsters come running through the area which makes it very dangerous for us.”

Mr Amos acknowledged the land is reserved for a road to run through it but questioned when this would happen.

“Since we’ve been living here for almost five years there have been talks of this road that will be built but so far nothing has happened. The need for housing is a lot greater than the need for a road so we are appealing to the City to make the provisions available for us because we cannot go on living like this,” he said.

Carley Nelson said there had been seven fires at the informal settlement because people were forced to use candles for lighting and to make fires to cook.

“We have been living in the dark for such a long time and the City keeps telling us about a road. Our lives are at risk because gangsters run through Skeemsaam and we cannot identify them because we can’t see who it is.

“Other informal settlements get electricity and running water but the same is not done for us,” she said.

Skeemsaam committee chairperson Pamela Hopley said she was aware of residents’ concerns but said the City’s mandate was clear and had to be accepted.

“We were backyard dwellers complaining about the issues we had and we decided to occupy this piece of land. The only reason the City allowed us to still live here was because we accepted the clause that certain services will not be given to us – it was stated from the very beginning and we were fine with it because we had to get out of the backyards we were living in.

“We are grateful for what has been done for us so far and we are patiently waiting to be beneficiaries of the upcoming housing developments because we are all on the housing waiting list,” said Ms Hopley.

Mr Booi said the City had to act in fairness and recognise all of the other communities who had been waiting patiently for the delivery of services.

“This is especially important in light of the enormous increase in unlawful land occupations across the metro over recent months. Those who settle on land illegally do so at own risk, and knowing there are no services on the land.”

He added that numerous newly established communities were demanding services but currently the City was unable to cater for these unplanned settlements as existing recognised informal settlements were prioritised on the basis of available resources.

Asked if Skeemsaam residents would be considered for the Greater Retreat Housing Project, Mr Booi said Parkwood would be included in the plans. “A number of vacant sites have been identified for inclusion in that project, and are currently being investigated in terms of feasibility”.

Richard Bosman, executive director for safety and security, said while the safety and security directorate was not responsible for lighting, they advised residents to remain indoors after dark, where possible and to walk in groups if they need to move around.

“While the City’s enforcement staff try to police areas as best as possible, there is simply not sufficient resources to be everywhere that requires attention on a sustained basis, due to operational demands. We encourage residents who witness any criminal activity to please call the police or the City’s Public Emergency Communication Centre on 021 480 7700.”