‘We are tired of living in this mess’

Children look on as tyres burn in Seawinds.

The need for proper housing for residents of Overcome Heights informal settlement has yet again taken centre stage after residents protested for better services, housing and for the City to come up with a plan to stop winter flooding.

Every year during winter, homes are flooded making it difficult for residents to go to work and school.

The reason for the floods is because the settlement was created on unsuitable land such as dams and retention ponds which are prone to flooding.

On Wednesday February 2, protesters burnt tyres and closed off roads in Hillview and Seawinds to make their grievances known to the City. They say this time they won’t stop protesting until their cries are heard.

Fawzia Casiem, chair of the steering committee at the settlement, bemoaned the fact that a multi-million rand park was built next to the settlement in St Patrick Avenue. In a matter of months, the park was stripped and vandalised leaving an empty shell.

“All that money wasted. Money that could have been used to help us get housing or try and stop flooding in our homes.”

She accused the authorities of making empty promises about providing better housing and measures to stop the flooding.

“We are tired of living in this mess, and we deserve answers from the City. Every time there is a new councillor and a new mayor who make empty promises to us voters, but it has become very clear that they only make these false promises to get our votes, and then they disappear. Genoeg is genoeg.”

Roslyn Felix, Karen Mentoor, Samantha Shadrick and Janitt Afrikaaner at the protest.

Steering committee member Karen Mentoor, along with many others, has been living at the settlement since it was started 17 years ago. She insists promises were made to them that housing would eventually be provided and flooding at the settlement dealt with.

“Year in and year out, we sit with the same problems, and nothing is done about it. We are skipped when it comes to services and housing opportunities, so we’ve decided to protest. It seems it’s the only way to get attention because it works in other parts of the province.”

Janitt Afrikaaner, Samantha Shadrick and Roslyn Felix – residents who were among the first people who moved to Overcome Heights – have been on the waiting list for a combined 47 years.

“Waiting on a house is one thing, but living in the conditions we do, especially in winter, is unacceptable. We can’t go on living like this and deserve better,” said Ms Afrikaaner.

Responding to the protesters’ call for the City to take action before winter, Malusi Booi, the mayoral committee member for human settlements, said the City had previously taken steps to prevent flooding, such as digging trenches, delivering milling material to raise the ground level and providing plastic sheeting and sandbags.

Police kept an eye on the protest.

The location of settlement made flood-relief unfeasible in many cases, he said.

“We encourage residents who are at risk of experiencing localised flooding to please consider some interventions, such as making their own sandbags, digging trenches to lead water away from entrances of dwellings and to use plastic and other waterproofing materials where possible.”

The City was not aware of the promise or agreement residents had spoken of, he said, adding that residents should register on the City’s housing-needs register to be considered for housing opportunities.

“Should their turn come and the opportunity is in an area they do not want to live in, they can reject it and wait for a different opportunity. Without registering on the City’s housing-needs register, it is not possible to be considered for an opportunity.”

Residents can visit the City’s website, capetown.gov.za, to check their status on the housing-needs register.

Fawzia Cassiem explains why intervention is needed by the City.