Tired of empty promises on housing, Masiphumele residents threaten not to vote

Last December, a massive fire ripped through the area, leaving hundreds of people homeless but months after the fire, no work has been done on the site that's said to be earmarked for permanent housing.

Temporary homes were erected on the weekend of 9 and 10 January 2021 after a fire destroyed more than 1,000 homes in Masiphumelele just days before Christmas 2020. Picture: Lizell Persens/Eyewitness News

CAPE TOWN - Masiphumele residents have threatened to take to the streets over service delivery issues and housing woes.

Last December, a massive fire ripped through the area, leaving hundreds of people homeless but months after the fire, no work has been done on the site that's said to be earmarked for permanent housing.

On Thursday, community members will march to the Fish Hoek sub-council office where they will highlight their demands.

"Promises were made. After three months there would be houses. The three months became six months, the six months became eight and now there's rumours that the houses will be built in 2023," community leader Mkhululi Mfiki said. He was referring to the promises made last year by politicians who flocked to the area following the fire.

Masiphumelele residents said that they were still in the dark about plans for permanent housing.

Those affected by the fire said that they were promised homes this year but claimed that there was no proper communication about any progress.

What was once a site with nothing but rubble following the fire is now packed with stacked iron structures.

While some residents have settled in, they said that shacks were far from ideal.

There are still residents without a home such as Mandisa Gqada.

She said that she had submitted all the required documents to get a roof over her head but to date, nothing had come of it.

As a result, she was renting a home that she could not afford.

"It's bad because I'm not working, I'm not affording the rent, it's difficult for me. I also have a one-year-old child," Gqada said.

Standing between stacked iron structures, Nomqondiso Tose said that they had no electricity and were using outdoor toilets that did not work properly.

Tose said that she was using gas to cook food while her neighbours were using paraffin. This, she said, could be dangerous.

She was clear that they were unhappy living in temporary accommodation and wanted what they were promised.

"Lindiwe Sisulu or whoever promised about the proper houses. Since then, we've not gotten anything. They gave us eight months and then it would be there and then after that we would move. But we are still here."

Community leader Mfiki was concerned about residents who still did not have homes.

He said that promises were made but there had been very little action.

"Politicians must keep their promises to the people. What we want to see is the houses. We need that. We need a change of things here."

While there are indications that homes will be completed in the 2023/2024 financial year, Mfiki said that he was disappointed that many residents had not yet been informed.

As the country prepares for the local government elections, some Masiphumele residents said that they would not be voting.

They said that they were sick of empty promises.

Some residents living in the fire-prone informal settlement said that they were not going to vote because politicians make promises they could not keep.

Walking through the area, election posters dot street lights.

But residents, specifically those who have been promised permanent housing following the blaze, stressed that they would not bother casting their ballots.

"I'm not going to vote at all. I don't see the use of putting my 'X' on that ballot paper for nothing because they give us empty promises. When they do manifestos, they say they're going to try something for you guys and then after that they just sit back," one resident said.

Another said: "I'm not going to vote. I don't have a house, we don't have work... I'm not going to vote."

But Fundiswa Stofile said that she was going to vote as she hoped that things would change for the better.

"Yes, I'm going to vote. We need houses, we need bus services for us. We are not going to vote if they are taking care of us. We need the care, we are the people," Stofile said.

A Masiphumelele ward councillor said that plans to build permanent homes for residents affected by the fire was under way.

Government has indicated that houses would be completed in the 2023/2024 financial year.

Ward councillor Felicity Purchase explained where the process was at: "The application for the rezoning, I think it is this week. It goes to the municipal planning tribunal this month and once that's approved, the next phase of that development gets under way and is the drawing up of tender documents to take the process forward."

She added that contractors were currently on-site, in the wetlands area, and were busy with the electricity infrastructure.

While some residents have told Eyewitness News that they still had not received temporary homes, Purchase said that according to their knowledge, everyone affected by the fire had a roof over their head.

"Those who have not received temporary homes are boarders who were boarding with other people who are the principle terms of that structure and that always happens after a fire. Everyone comes along says that they were living in there, however, we have a database that's allocated to a person."

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