It's raining misery for Cape shack dwellers
Heavy downpours pile further suffering on children, the elderly and sickly in informal settlements
Cape Town resident Nomaphelo Nomthwalo spent the day on Monday removing buckets full of water from her tiny shack.
The sand beneath her home in the Siyahlala informal settlement in Dunoon leached water at short intervals following heavy downpours that hit the Cape metropole over the weekend and continued into Monday.
Several other informal settlement dwellers in the area shared Nomthwalo’s predicament.
“We have been doing this the whole of Sunday,” said a distraught Nomthwalo. She shares the shack with her two small children who also took turns to remove the water using a jug.
“I have been living here since 2005 and we go through this every winter. But Sunday was the worst winter day I have experienced since moving to this area,” she said.
“This is bad for children, the elderly and sickly people. We can hardly keep anything dry here. The roof is leaking and the floor is leaching a pool of water. You basically need a platform to move between the bed and the kitchen. But I have to put up with this situation as I am unemployed.”Her neighbour, Kholiswa Zumana, hunched dispiritedly on her bed. She said her younger brother had gone to relatives in Mfuleni because the spot he where slept, on the floor, was saturated with rain water.
Her small daughter coughed incessantly.
“I am worried because the whole room is wet,” said Zumana.
“This past weekend was very harsh. I am unable to dry the wet stuff because the rain is still drizzling and we are shivering from the cold. My brother spent the night with relatives because the floor is waterlogged; it is unbearable.”
Another affected resident‚ Sino Dyokwe of the Soweto informal settlement, also in Dunoon‚ said her family woke up to a pool of water inside her shack on Monday. She said she is worried that they might have to abandon the structure if the rains continue.
“We woke [up‚ got] out of bed and stepped into a pool of ice-cold water‚” said Dyokwe. “We tried to take it out but if the rains continue our efforts to keep dry will be a futile exercise. Luckily my small children are in the Eastern Cape. It would have been very uncomfortable for them.”
Keeping warm in the shacks is another challenge – paraffin and gas heaters also pose a danger to the zinc structures. Another unsettling sight is that of electricity cables immersed in water as the residents keep themselves warm around heaters.Charlotte Powell, spokesperson for the city’s Disaster Risk Management Centre, said the informal settlements were the worst hit. She said about 4,000 dwellings had been affected in Khayelitsha, Philippi and Macassar.
“No emergency sheltering was activated,” said Powell. “Powerlines are down in Lansdowne, Gugulethu and Wynberg. Trees were uprooted in Constantia, Vredekloof, Durbanville, Tamboerskloof and Pinelands. Various city departments are making assessments and will continue the mop-up operations that have been ongoing since the cold front hit.”
According to forecasts, the rain will subside on Tuesday but those hit by the heavy downpours on Monday have a lot to remedy.