Flooding in Eastern Cape: municipality blames residents, residents blame municipality

1,200 people evacuated in Nelson Mandela Bay after heavy rains

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Children play in water which flooded Shukushuma in Nelson Mandela Bay over the weekend. Photo: Joseph Chirume

Large parts of the Eastern Cape were flooded after heavy rains at the weekend. The Nelson Mandela Bay municipality says the flooding there is the fault of residents who throw rubbish into stormwater drains. Meanwhile in Qumrha, north of East London, flooded residents blamed the Great Kei municipality for not fixing the drainage system.

Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality Safety and Security mayoral committee member Lawrence Troon said over 1,200 people had been evacuated to various community halls and churches. The residents were from Jachvlate, Motherwell, New Brighton, KwaZakhele, Edongweni, Airport Valley and Red Location, among other areas. Many children had to miss school.

Troon told GroundUp that when workers cleared drains in KwaZakhele on Sunday, they had found “huge cement blocks, rubble, car tyres”. “So we call upon the people not to throw away these things, you will see how bad the water was in KwaZakhele,” he said.

“The water cannot go into the drains and is now flowing on the roads.”

“Secondly, I would say our officials must also give more attention to maintaining the drains in townships and the northern areas just like they do in western areas [the formerly white areas].”

“In the western areas, it is very seldom we find this type of situation because those drains are maintained most of the time,” he said.

Rubbish blocks a storm water drain in NU10. Photo: Joseph Chirume

Residents of informal settlements denied that illegal dumping was responsible for blocking the drains.

“There are no roads or tarred surfaces where we live, which is a condition for runoff,” said Zoliswa Gaula of Vukani informal settlement in Motherwell. “Rain sinks into our homes and our gravel roads. Rain destroys our belongings.”

She said water had flooded her shack at the weekend.

“I have been living in this informal settlement since 2018 and it has always been bad. Each time it rains, much is destroyed because we live in shacks. What people in shacks want are formal houses so that we are not affected by rain.”

People had to wade through water to reach their houses in Ngedle Street in Shukushuma. Photo: Joseph Chirume

Thobile Saza lives with his wife and son in NU30 in a bungalow allocated to him in 2020. He is disabled and uses a wheelchair to move around.

“The recent rains were so heavy that they flooded the floor of the bungalow. We literally swam in it. We kept mopping the floor until it subsided.We have been promised formal houses since 2020 but nothing has materialised. We are afraid that if it rains heavily again, the bungalow will collapse,” said Saza.

He said the rain comes in through the wooden walls, and the floor is rotten.

Ngedle and Nqokwe Streets in Shukushukuma remained closed to traffic on Monday. Homeowners in the two streets could not access their houses without taking off their shoes.

Great Kei

Meanwhile residents of Siviwe Township in Qumrha, where the rains also left homes flooded, blamed the Great Kei Local Municipality for not fixing the drainage system.

At least 54 households in the township were affected. When GroundUp visited the area on Monday, residents were still busy draining away water, mopping up their homes and drying their belongings in the sun.

Resident Ntombovuyo Nongqayi said she was at work when heavy rain started on Friday and when she got home there was already water in her house. She tried to stack the furniture and use buckets to get rid of the water, but said problems with a drain in her yard made it impossible to clear the water.

Ntombovuyo Nongqayi had to put all her belongings outside her house to dry. Photo: Johnnie Isaac

Another resident, Nomaindiya Felebhayi, said she was in bed when the water started flowing into her house. Felebhayi said she no longer uses her outside toilet because it’s waterlogged. “We don’t have a drainage system, so the water comes to our houses. We have reported this to our councillor but he doesn’t care about us and our issues.”

Some residents say Amathole District Municipality had promised to rebuild their homes with improved foundations, but this had not happened.

Veliswa Dyobha was still busy clearing out water. “This is not the first time we found ourselves flooded,” she said. “When it happened the first time, we were told that we are going to be placed in temporary shelters when our houses are being renovated with a thicker foundation.”

Veliswa Dyobha’s house was flooded. Photo: Johnnie Isaac

Great Kei municipal spokesperson Ntombizanele Mgema said the municipality is aware of the issues that are affecting the township. Most of the issues raised are a responsibility of the district municipality and the Department of Human Settlements, Mgema said.

The Amathole District Municipality had not responded to GroundUp’s questions at the time of publication.

Heavy rains soaked Siviwe township in Qumrha, Eastern Cape, at the weekend. Photo: Johnnie Isaac

TOPICS:  Housing

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