Some of the Manenberg residents who were temporarily relocated to containers more than five months ago say they are eager to move back to their homes.

Dozens of families that have been living for decades in the council-owned flat of Eva Court were moved from their homes to make way for its refurbishment in October last year. But a three-month long gang war in the area, rampant vandalism and a delay in payment to contractors by the City of Cape Town has delayed work for months. The upgrade is expected to be only completed by May.

Eva Court is among 600 rental units in Manenberg earmarked for internal upgrades as part of the City’s multi-million rand Community Residential Units (CRU) Refurbishment Programme.

The City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlement, Benedicta van Minnen, announced that nearly 7,000 rental units have been upgraded. Van Minnen said about R1,25 billion was spent on the project since its launch in 2008, with the majority of properties nearing completion.

However, as the City celebrated the refurbishments, 64-year-old resident Peter Jacobs said he is still living in a six-metre long container along with five relatives.

The red and blue containers are situated on open land along Duinefontein Road in Manenberg, about four streets away from Eva Court. When residents moved in five months ago, Jacobs said they were told that the living arrangements would be for only six weeks.

Jacobs, who has been living in Manenberg for more than 30 years, said he was initially excited about the upgrade.

“It’s almost six months later and we are still here. Living in a container is horrible. When the door and windows are closed, we can’t breathe because there is no air coming in. My grandchildren have to sleep on the floor because there just isn’t space,” he said.

Jacobs said construction on the units was stopped after gangs began shooting in November, preventing workers from operating in the area.

“When the contractors stopped working, the flat was left empty. Everything was stripped. All the pipes, cables, electricity boxes, windows and our laminated flooring was stolen and damaged. The contractors only started work again last week because they also weren’t paid by the City,” he said.

Jacobs said residents unaccustomed to living on the ground level often feared for their safety.

“People have been living in a flat for years and now they have to worry about the gangsters running and shooting here between the containers. There are two security guards at the gate during the day, but it means nothing because they are nowhere to be found at night,” he said.

Another resident, Anne Brophey, said: “We are a big family and this container is very small. When it rains, everything gets wet, all our clothes in the plastic bags are damp. I don’t know how we are going to move back because the people (contractors) are only doing work now. We don’t even know what we’ll be moving back to?”

Brophey invited GroundUp into her container where she lives with her two daughters and three grandchildren. The container has been split into three living spaces. At the entrance, she has managed to fit a small washing machine next to her sink. Immediately after, is a room with a double bed and a single bed fitted tightly next to one another with limited walking space to get to the toilet area in the back.

Brophey pointed out their bags of clothes. They are forced to wear clothes are damp due to a leak in the floor.

“I had to wrap the rest of my furniture in cling wrap before it went into the storage containers. We don’t know if those valuables will be damaged by the time we move back. There is so much dirt near the gates that the council should come clear before we get rats. We can’t live like this,” she said.

The City’s Benedicta van Minnen said that the upgrades were a top priority as some of the rental blocks were more than 30 years old. She added that residents are expected to move back to their homes in May.

Van Minnen said the main reason for the delay in Manenberg was the result of “abnormal” gang violence and vandalism. “We remain concerned about the level of gang violence in certain areas, which is jeopardising the safety of our residents and our efforts to increase service delivery. Soon after the block of flats was vacated, armed thugs stole and vandalised the property to the core,” she said.

Van Minnen said the City was aware of the funding issue.

“An application is in the process of being approved for additional funding for the repairs of the buildings, delays caused to the project, and security for the contractor to proceed,” she said.

Responding to questions about the piles of rubbish seen in the temporary village, Van Minnen said residents were not adhering to an agreement made with the contractors.

“It was agreed that they [the residents] would take their bins to the perimeter of the village area. This was not happening. Other people have also been dumping rubbish outside the fence. Although cleaning the area is not the responsibility of the contractor, they have since been asked to remove the rubbish,” she said.

Van Minnen said the City has already completed upgrades in several areas including Scottsville, Uitsig, Woodlands and Kewtown. Refurbishment is still underway in Manenberg, Hanover Park, Heideveld and Ottery.

Source : GroundUp

News Reporter