On 1 February 2021, the City of Cape Town released a statement about COVID-19 temporary emergency services in informal settlements. The statement outlines how the city has and still is leading a successful program that has been delivering temporary emergency provision of basic services in informal settlements, these informal settlements include those that were previously not serviced. It further outlines how the programme has delivered more than 160 million litres of water to date. This statement is a far-fetched reality of the people the City claims it has been servicing so brilliantly.
To date, there are over 204 informal settlements across the City of Cape Town, more than the 173 the City is claiming to currently be servicing. Some have existed for numerous years, some are recently formed due to the harsh economic climate post the pandemic. Despite the number of years that distinguishes each informal settlement, one reality unites them all, the lack of water and sanitation. In areas that have been able to experience basic levels of water and sanitation, the maintenance and consistency of the programs continuously faulters.
Key factors that show the lack of regulation and recognition of the plight of the most affected is the lack of detail in the statement, it claims that they have delivered temporary services such as water trucks during the pandemic to 173 communities and distributed 307 water tanks, but does not indicate which informal settlements received these temporary services. This information is key because numerous informal settlements currently do not have access to water and sanitation.
Another worrying factor is that there has been no meaningful engagement and consultation done with these communities to inform them about the timeframe of temporary services, the duration of service providers’ contracts and an outline on the interim measures put in place to temporarily service communities with water. This is important because the city has mentioned, in its statement, that they will be reducing the frequency of water trucks.
The reality is that the City disregards newly formed communities, especially those that were established during the lockdown, they have experienced difficulties in accessing water and sanitation before, and many are currently facing these very same difficulties at the height of the pandemic. Our organisers constantly meet with numerous community members who have exhausted all efforts of trying to get help from the local government to fix the issues they are currently facing. These are some of their stories
Noluntu- Qandu-Qandu Settlement
“The water trucks come during working hours, usually there are very few people that are in their households around that time. Adults are off to work and children are at school. For this reason, we miss out on our supply of water. The water also simply isn’t enough for everything needed in our communities but most importantly it’s not enough for sanitation. When we told the truck drivers that we need more water to clean the chemical toilets they refused. These toilets need to be cleaned every day, but how can that be done without water. I would really like you to emphasis the fact that with the amount of water the city gives us, we are unable to clean our toilets, there isn’t enough water for sanitation, which is bad especially looking at the times we are living with the virus. We constantly need to wash our hands and keep our environments clean but we simply aren’t able to at this rate.”
Sonia – Azania settlement
“ Our zone has been struggling to get access due to the lack of accessible roads in the community. The roads are sandy and have no grip, making it difficult for the water trucks to come through to our section and deliver the water. When we go to zones that have water, usually those community members complain about the fact that we might finish the water that is allocated to them. The lines we have to wait in order to get the water are crazy. I have tried numerous times to elevate this issue to the counsellors and the municipality of this area, all we have been asking them for is gravel to pour on these roads so that the trucks can be able to access us, to date they have not been able to assist us with this. “
The City needs to understand that even they do not approve of how these communities were established that doesn’t take away their constitutional obligation to provide basic services to all residents of Cape Town.