Exactly a year after violent clashes with police and City of Cape Town officials, residents from Skeemsaam informal settlement in Grassy Park have been given much-needed basic services.
In February last year, irate backyard dwellers invaded an open field on the corner of Acacia Road and Falcon Way, in Grassy Park, erecting several shelters.
When law enforcement tore down the shelters, residents clashed with police, burned tyres and stoned police vehicles.
Those who invaded the land told of having had to endure overcrowded backyards, high rents, locked toilets and little or no access to water (“Residents wait for services after court order,” Southern Mail, September 28, 2016).
In September last year, the Western Cape High Court ordered that no further structures, apart from the 47 that were already there, were to be erected after an application by the City of Cape Town.
Since then, the 47 families have had to use one toilet and one tap or ask neighbours for water and to use their toilets.
Then last week the residents received 10 toilets, one toilet for every five families, and there are plans to provide other services as soon as possible.
Ward 66 councillor William Akim said the City, by right, had to provide the services to the residents of Skeemsaam.
“We fully understand that there is a national housing problem, and we also know that the residents have a constitutional right to have access to basic services. This is just a temporary measure to help the residents, and next on the list is to have standpipes so that they have access to water and for floodlights to be installed. We will work closely with the committee in future to help the community,” he said.
Proportional representative (PR) councillor for the DA Elgan Fortune, who grew up in Parkwood and serves on the utilities and energy services transversal committee, said even though the residents had invaded the land, he felt obliged to help them.
“I made enquiries about the services and followed the procedures and a couple of days later the toilets were delivered,” he said.
Mr Fortune, however, wants to propose plans to move the Skeemsaam residents from the Acacia Road site as it had been earmarked for a road.
“We want to move them to another site that also belongs to the City because we cannot provide permanent services at the Acacia Road site because of the plans for the space. The other site will be reblocked in order for us to provide them with proper services,” said Mr Fortune.
He would not disclose the location in fear of more land invasions, and said he would consult with City officials about the matter as it was only a proposal for now.
Carly Nelson, a spokesperson for Skeemsaam residents, said they were grateful for the services.
“We are very happy and we appreciate what’s given to us. We waited very long for these services and we are looking forward to the other services that will be given to us. Personally, I’m also very happy about the proposed move to a reblocked space because it means that we would be accommodated with more services. We can’t be ungrateful, we must appreciated all the help we can get,” said Ms Nelson.
Resident Charlene Abrahams was also open to the idea of moving to a reblocked location. “We invaded the land illegally so whatever services we get we are happy with,” said Ms Abrahams.