Residents of Ethembeni informal settlement in Khayelitsha fear for their health as their shacks, illegally built on land not meant for housing, continue to be flooded by sewage that spilled when a stormwater pipe burst more than a month ago.
Attempts to get the City to drain the sewage from homes in the community have proved fruitless, said residents.
Community leader Wanda Maginxa said children and the elderly sometimes had to walk through human excrement. “The drain burst in a nearby community and the sewage spread into our homes, resulting in us living in filth,” he said.
“We have tried to engage with the relevant stakeholders but none of them have assisted.”
Maginxa said the smell was horrible and made it unbearable for them to eat. “We are here because we have nowhere else to go; if we had options, we would use them This is no way to live, but every time we report it, nothing gets done,” he said.
The residents picketed outside Parliament last week in an attempt to get the City to attend to the issue.
Mayco member for water and waste services Xanthea Limberg said the land on which the settlement was built was not intended for housing, because when it rained there was a possibility sewers would overflow.
Mayco member for human settlements Malusi Booi said the City had tried to prevent the illegal occupation of that particular stretch of land to prevent such a situation from occurring.
“This settlement was formed after a stormwater retention pond was unlawfully occupied. These ponds are dry during the summer months, but when it rains they are meant to collect water that otherwise would cause flooding in the surrounding areas, and channel it to the underground stormwater system.
“Detention ponds flood every winter, and therefore they are not suitable for habitation,” Booi said.
“Those who succeed in occupying (the land) illegally unfortunately do so at their own risk. There is a reason why the City has not designated some areas for housing. Blockages of sewer lines higher up in the area are happening regularly due to inappropriate material ending up in the sewer lines.
“Some new settlements, formed from unlawful occupation, have been established ‘downstream’, and thus they are in the direct pathway and collection point of any overflows. How the structures have been positioned is preventing the water from draining from the pond.”
Booi said the spread of unplanned informal settlements was unsustainable and immediate service demands were not always possible to satisfy at the expense of planned informal settlements.