September 7 2011 at 12:59pm – BRONWYNNE JOOSTE and CLAYTON BARNES – Cape Argus
THE CITY of Cape Town’s plan to provide basic services to backyard residents has been met with mixed reaction.
Mayor Patricia de Lille launched the Backyard Essential Services Improvement Programme yesterday.
The pilot stage will start in Factreton next month and entails installing toilets and running water in structures in backyards.
Electricity would also be provided, and backyard residents would get their own wheelie bins. Other areas in the pilot phase are Hanover Park and Langa.
At this stage, services can only be provided to backyard residents living on council-owned land, said De Lille.
Cape Town was the first city in South Africa to launch such a project, she saidf.
”It is a first in the history of South Africa and the first in the chapter of Cape Town.”
But some backyarders were sceptical.
Adiel Bassier, from Cape Metro Backyarders Association in Factreton, questioned how logistically possible it would be to provide the services.
Laylah Ryklief, from the Anti-Eviction Campaign in Grassy Park, said the city did not consult backyard residents.
“They already made their own plans. They are saying this is what we are doing and if you don’t like it, just leave it.”
De Lille said no resident would be forced to agree to the plan. Mholbo Gunguluzi, from the Gugulethu Backyard Dwellers, said the plan showed residents they would never receive formal housing.
“You are going back to site and service. Instead of just telling us that we as backyarders are going to die before we see houses,” Gunguluzi told De Lille.
But Melanie Manuel, from Manenberg, said “backyarders’ prayers had been answered”.
“We realised a long time ago, we were going wait for houses. We are actually making ourselves comfortable. Today is the first time the city sits with us and tells us not to hide.”
Norman Grovers, from Scottsdene, said he had been a backyard resident for 18 years .
“Only a backyarder will understand how it is to live in my current condition …I really welcome the improvement.”
The ANC welcomed De Lille’s vision, but questioned the logistics of the plan. Xolani Sotashe, ANC chief whip in the council, said claims that the plan was the first of its kind in the country, were not true.
He said a similar initiative had already been launched in Soweto.
Sotashe also questioned whether the city’s “ageing” infrastructure would be able to handle the extra load.
“The sewage infrastructure is already not coping. We experience sewage spills across the city and now De Lille wants to expand.”
Meanwhile, shack dwellers’ association Abahlali baseMjondolo criticised De Lille for changing the venue of the meeting, accusing her of running away from the city’s poorest citizens.
The group planned a protest outside the O R Tambo hall in Mew Way, Khayelitsha, yesterday where De Lille was scheduled to meet with representatives of backyarders’ organisations. De Lille changed the venue to the city council at the eleventh hour, leaving protesters, many of whom had travelled from Elsies River and Kraaifontein, furious.
Abahlali baseMjondolo spokesman Mzonke Poni said De Lille must have got wind of the planned protest and “quickly changed the venue”. Abahlali was invited, but planned to boycott the gathering as the city made allowances for only three representatives per organisation to attend.
“To invite three people per organisation undermines the right of ordinary people to speak for themselves and find solutions to the problems,” said Poni. “De Lille should be ashamed of herself for running away from the poorest of the poor. It is an insult.”
Some 100 backyarders from Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain, Elsies River, Delft and Kraaifontein gathered outside the Abahlali offices during lunchtime yesterday before marching to the O R Tambo Hall, where the meeting was scheduled to have taken place at 2pm.
Slu Mzimkulu, chairman of the Mandela Park backyarders’ association, said:“All we want is a meeting, where all backyarders can express themselves.”
Mitchells Plain backyarders’ association chairman Charles Adams said: “De Lille has disrespected us.”
Solly Malatsi, De Lille’s spokesman, said the city had “become aware of possible disruptions” and the city was not willing to risk postponing such an important meeting.
All organisations who had confirmed attendance were notified of the change as soon as possible, he said.