Concerns growing over the number of informal settlements in Cape Town

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Cape Town is one of the South Africa’s fastest growing cities with tens of thousands of people moving to the region annually in search of opportunities. For a great number of people without financial means, this means living in informal settlements.

The number of informal settlements increases every year and living conditions are often dire. One such settlement is Burundi at Mfuleni on the Cape Flats.

It has been one of the coldest and wettest winters in Cape Town for several years.

Large parts of the Cape Flats were once wetlands. As a result, low lying areas often experience localised flooding.

Space is a major issue in the city and many informal settlements spring up.

Mavuso Gqola is a local business man in Mfuleni. He lives a stone’s throw away from Burundi and says the conditions are unbearable.

“I know how you feel when you are a disabled person; we need a right place, not like this one. I’m here now to fight for the right of the people, these people who are here are the voters. When the elections come, the parties are promising, after election; nothing.”

Gqola says a number of Burundi residents have some form of disability.

There is no proper access road into Burundi, causing mayhem for the residents. Resident Wiseman Magidigidi says that when people get sick in the area, ambulances find it difficult to get in.

“Even if at night if people are getting sick, it is difficult for the ambulance to get in as well as hiring transport around. They have to use a wheelbarrow to get the people out because the transport can’t go in and the clinics are full; especially with people with tuberculosis because of this situation. It’s cold, there is floods around.”

Another resident Irene Nokubonga says that children get sick because of the living conditions.

“Children are sick because we are living in a dirty place, there’s a lot of disease here. We are living in bad conditions. Please government; make a plan for us, please.”

Grant Twig of the City of Cape Town says there are more than 400 informal settlements like Burundi across the city. He says, with a continual influx, it’s a great concern to keep track of exactly how many people live in these settlements.

“What we are currently doing is trying to manage the existing ones and also trying to look at budget to work on the current ones. So if new ones get established, it’s actually very difficult to manage because what we currently need to do is we are also looking at the backyarders.”

Twigg says a housing development of nearly 200 units is underway in Mfuleni and a number of Burundi residents will be resettled within the next few weeks.

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