The long battle of 300 families for toilets and taps

The land they live on in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, has been earmarked for a hospital

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Residents of New Bright informal settlement in Khayelitsha rely on water from this fire hydrant, near the mall. But the water is not safe for consumption. Photos: Marecia Damons

Bongiwe Jonga moved to New Bright informal settlement in Khayelitsha during lockdown in 2020 with her small daughter.

The settlement, home to nearly 300 households, has no toilets, water, electricity or refuse collection. When she can’t use the toilets in the nearby Khayelitsha mall, Jonga has to use a bucket inside her shack. “Then I have to take that bucket and throw it out somewhere. It’s embarrassing and unhealthy,” said Jonga, who survives on her daughter’s R530-a-month child support grant and the little she makes from making and selling clothes.

The residents rely on water from a fire hydrant, a five-minute walk from the settlement. But the water is not safe for consumption.

However, the battle for basic services for the New Bright families is at an impasse. The residents want the City of Cape Town to install toilets and standpipes, but the land they live on has been earmarked for the construction of a private hospital in Khayelitsha.

In August 2022, the City conducted a site visit with the ward councillor and community leaders. At the time, the City said it intended to supply about 25 container toilets at a cost of R212,500 by December 2022. There were existing water reticulation lines close by and it could install five standpipes.

However shortly thereafter, the City handed the land over to the Khayelitsha Community Trust (KCT). KCT’s head of corporate services, Lungelwa Sigasana, has explained that KCT was founded by the City in 2003 to develop commercial, residential, and community facilities in Khayelitsha. The Trust now trades as a non-profit organisation.

At a community meeting in December 2023, the City announced that a hospital was to be built on the land, and that the residents must relocate.

During a site visit to the settlement last week, mayco member for Human Settlements Carl Pophaim promised to return to the area on Friday to present a plan on when and how they will be given basic services.

But, he said, he could not install services inside the settlement, as residents have been requesting. “It can only be on the periphery,” Pophaim said.

He said the “biggest delay” would be installing standpipes and proposed they consider water tankers in the meantime.

When City officials return on Friday, Pophaim said, they will also do a survey of households to see if any of them qualify for subsidised housing opportunities.

The City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for Human Settlements Carl Pophaim has promised to return New Bright on Friday to present a plan on when and how they will be given basic services.

TOPICS:  Housing Sanitation

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