Village Heights tired of waiting for services

Aysha Davids with previous councillor Gerry Gordon.

There is growing frustration in Village Heights over a municipal project that residents say has stalled, dashing their hopes of seeing paved roads and basic services in the informal settlement any time soon.

Residents say they want straight answers from the City about the project’s progress within seven days. Some have threatened to take to the streets.

They say the City should have made more progress with the project since a site visit by officials in September 2020.

The project would deliver water and sanitation services to individual homes in the settlement along with stormwater pipes, paved roads and pathways.

Aysha Davids, who is on the planning committee for the project, said she had anticipated work starting in 2020 as it was her understanding that officials had done the necessary environmental surveys and investigations.

Officials and residents discussed the planned upgrade project during a site visit in September 2020.

“We’ve just had enough of this, waiting around for answers from the City about when the project will start, but every time we are told that they are waiting on officials,” she said. “It has taken them almost two years to do what exactly? That’s two wasted years that could have been used to actually do the work needed in the community.

“We need to know when and why it’s taking so long. The community needs these services as in yesterday because winter is coming. Another winter where our children have to stay in places that are leaking, where they can’t even sleep and hear bullets going through the walls of their homes.”

Resident Sonia Moses said the community had waited long enough.

“We have had enough. It’s been 18 years that Village Heights has been here and for 18 years promises have been made, but nothing has come of it,” she said.

Environmental surveys were done to assess the land.

“If we sit and wait for meetings then nothing is coming. This needs to be a priority. We have waited patiently enough but will take to the streets if we have to.”

Another resident, Marlene Bailey, said they were fed up.

“We were asked to be patient and we must trust the process, which we did. All surveys were completed,” said Ms Bailey, adding that it looked like the community had been “taken for a ride”.

At the time of the meeting in 2020 Gerry Gordon was the ward councillor for the area, but since then, ward boundaries have changed. The community now falls under Ward 45, comprising what was formerly wards 64 and 67. It also now falls under Sub-council 19 instead of Sub-council 18.

Ward 45 councillor Mandy Marr said the upgrade project was still on track. “Everything is still going ahead as planned, but we just need to get through the legal red tape to get things moved from Sub-council 18 to Sub-council 19. The project is, however, on the go.”

The project needed final sign-off, she said, adding that she had met with the community and would have further discussions to address concerns.

Mayoral committee member for human settlement Malusi Booi said the City had not yet committed to a start date for the project because it was still in a planning or statutory approval phase.

The plan, he said, was to accommodate 651 families and project values would be determined based on the outcome of the statutory approval and detailed engineering design process, which was under way.

“Engagements with residents are ongoing. Due processes are being followed and much planning and development management processes are under way,” said Mr Booi.