Decent shacks or major problems: The choice facing Hout Bay’s 15‚000 fire victims
Tanya Farber | 2017-03-21 16:26:25.0
Helpless residents walking through the destroyed mountainside township of Mandela Park in Imizamo Yethu, Hout Bay. File photo
Image by: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES
The next 24 hours will be crucial for the community of Imizamo Yethu which saw 15‚000 people displaced and four killed by a fire 10 days ago.
If all goes according to plan‚ residents in certain sections of the Hout Bay township will knock down their shacks to make way for “reblocking”. If not‚ the possibility of violent confrontation looms large.
“Reblocking commences in Imizamo Yethu tomorrow‚” Pierrinne Leukes‚ spokeswoman for City of Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille‚ said on Tuesday.
“We will start in Madiba Square. Last night we reached a consensus with those who had erected structures that they would remove it themselves so that we can issue fire-resistant emergency kits and start with the super-blocking project.”
But in the searing heat of Tuesday‚ with temperatures climbing above 30 degrees Celsius‚ the settlement was in a holding pattern: no new shacks were being built after the city council obtained a high court interdict preventing this. However‚ hundreds of shacks have sprung up over the past few days as desperate residents try to rebuild what they lost in the flames.
Some were already knocking down their shacks on Tuesday‚ but most residents must decide if they agree to the council’s ultimatum to clear the area in three phases so that reblocking can begin.
Reblocking – which was already planned before the fire — changes the layout of a settlement from a high-density haphazard collection of shacks to a more evenly-spaced planned area with broader roads where services can be delivered more easily and fires will not spread as rapidly.
Samkelo Krweqe‚ a resident and community leader‚ said he was knocking down his shack in Madiba Square — which was not affected by the fire — to encourage other residents to do likewise.
“The community is waiting for reblocking. When the planners came yesterday they said they want the site to be completely clear. Today is a holiday so things are quiet but we are trying our best‚” he said.
“As far as we are concerned‚ we trust them (the city council) for now as they brought materials. They want zero structures on the site. When they say they want the site to be clean‚ we have to do it.”
Last week‚ Minister of Human Settlements Lindiwe Sisulu and members of her team held negotiations with community leaders.
Her deputy‚ Zou Kota-Fredericks‚ said: “It is a difficult situation and we understand people are desperate to have a roof over their heads‚ but without access to roads and fire hydrants in place‚ we are back to the same problem. We are fortunate that the leadership in this community is working with us.”