Isiqalo residents threaten to boycott local elections

Isiqalo informal settlement in Mitchell's Plain.

Residents of Isiqalo informal settlement, which now forms part of Ward 43 (Strandfontein and parts of Philippi), is threatening to boycott the upcoming local government elections if the City of Cape Town fails to provide adequate services in the area.

Residents said they are registered to vote, but they will do so only if they see development in their area.

Irate residents accused the City of dragging its feet when it comes to installing electricity and providing flushing toilets.

“What we want is electricity and flushing toilets. We’ve been staying here since 2012 without proper flushing toilets.

“We are using portable toilets and temporal toilets which are both health hazards. Our children are getting sick every day and some of them have rashes and ringworm because of the conditions that we are living under,” said community leader, Princess Xabanisa.

She said women are the most vulnerable in the community.

“Most of us (women) have infections because we are sharing Mshengu (temporal toilets), which are dirty. Sometimes you find that someone messed on the toilet seat and you have to clean it before you can use it. And it’s easy for us (women) to contract infections,” said Ms Xabanisa.

Ms Xabanisa said more than 5 000 households share about 15 communal taps.

She described Isiqalo as the worst area in the Metro region.

“I don’t think there is any area like this. Every fortnight there is somebody who dies and children who are raped. If there were street lights crime would be less. There is no police visibility,” said the mother of three.

Nomalanga Dyantyi echoed Ms Xabanisa’s sentiments that there will be no vote until they see development taking place.

“I don’t see any reason to vote because to me it doesn’t make any difference. I’m still staying in a shack without electricity and a toilet,” she said.

Ms Dyantyi said portable toilets are degrading.

“Black people’s lives don’t matter to white people. Zille cannot use a portable toilet but because we are black she gave it to us. Imagine you are eating and someone is relieving himself and after that you have to keep it inside,” she said. The City collects the portable toilets twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Ms Dyantyi stays with her parents and sister in a three-room shack, which leaks whenever it rains.

“It is cold in winter and we can’t afford to buy paraffin every day because it’s too expensive. A bottle of paraffin is R20 now,” she explained.

Commenting on their access to water, she said the City installed the communal taps too far from their houses.

“I don’t know what was happening in their minds when they were installing these communal taps because all of them are outside next to the main road. There are no communal taps between the shacks. People have to walk for a distance to fetch the water. It would be much better if there were at least four communal taps just between the shacks,” she said.

Lizwe Sobekwa urged the City to improve sanitation in the settlement.

“These toilets get full within a day because sometimes one toilet is used by more than five families. So you can imagine maybe one house has about five people and you find that one toilet is used by more than 20 people or more. And they are dirty and have flies,” she said.

Mr Sobekwa said some people also lock the toilets, compelling others to go to the bush to relieve themselves – and also running the risk of being robbed or raped.

He declared that he is not going to vote until something is done to change their living conditions.

According to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Isiqalo, which falls under Ward 43, has 1 362 registered voters for the municipal elections.In the 2014 national and provincial elections there was a 98 percent turnout, with 83 percent of the votes going to the ANC and the rest to the Economic Freedom Fighters.

Ernest Sonnenberg, the City’s mayoral committee member for utility services, said both portable toilets and chemical toilets in Isiqalo are serviced three times a week – the same as other informal settlements in Cape Town.

“Chemical toilets in Isiqalo are serviced on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. As there has been a three-day gap between the last service (on Saturday) and the service this morning, it could have created the impression there had been a delay,” he said on Tuesday.

“The contractor confirmed that the area was serviced this morning. If toilets are not serviced according to schedule the residents should please report this to the City so that we can raise it with the contractor,” he said.

Benedicta van Minnen, mayoral committee member for human settlements, said the population at Isiqalo informal settlement is between 2 000 to 4 000 people

In a press release dated July 12, Mr Sonnenberg, said the City’s efforts to restore street lighting along a section of Jakes Gerwel Drive have been hamstrung by thieves.

He said the section of Jakes Gerwel Drive between Highlands Drive and the R300 was left in darkness after protesters destroyed the electricity control box in the area.

“The City’s Electricity Services Department attempted to restore the electricity by relaying supply from an alternative box in April, but this was short-lived and the power was cut once more. The department was eventually able to replace the control box towards the end of June, but a few weeks later thieves have struck again – this time stealing the cables. The cost of the damage and resultant repairs have been tallied at nearly R20 000.”

Mr Sonnenberg said the City receives ongoing complaints from residents who are justifiably concerned for their safety in the area.

The Plainsman questioned the City about development and plans for the area, to which Ms Van Minnen replied: “The settlement is the subject of a legal process and the City is therefore not in a position to comment at this stage.”