NEWS | CAPE TOWN 

Pelican Park erupts after councillor goes AWOL

“This is simple. We want service delivery. That includes houses, sports facilities, clinics, working sanitation, and a clean community.”

Photo of protesters
Protesters gather to hear Subcouncil Chairperson Shannen Rossouw. Photo: Thembela Ntongana
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More than 300 residents from Bhekela informal settlement and Phumlani Village next to Pelican Park set tyres alight and barricaded Strandfontein Road on Thursday. They stopped traffic. A bus stop was burnt and there was an attempt to vandalise a nearby Pick ‘n Pay. Children did not go to school. Pelican Park is on the Cape Flats.

“Our children are born and raised in shacks,” said community leader Sidwell Kweba talking about the need for housing in the informal settlement.

Kweba said residents began protesting at 3am, demanding that the City of Cape Town take notice of their living conditions. “This is simple. We want service delivery. That includes houses, sports facilities, clinics, working sanitation, and a clean community,” said Kweba.

He said the last meeting they had with their ward councillor, Gerry Gordon (DA), was on 1 February. He said they had not received any feedback from Gordon since then on the issues they had raised. “I have tried calling her. She has blocked my calls and Whatsapp. She does not respond to my emails,” Kweba said.

“She is never here. The only time they come with food and cars playing music is when they want our votes. After that we are nothing,” said Kweba.

Residents also complained that in Pelican Park people from distant areas were given formal houses while they are living in dire conditions just next to this development.

Several attempts by GroundUp to phone Councillor Gordon were unsuccessful.

Subcouncil chairperson Shanen Rossouw (DA) came to address the crowd but many people refused to listen. “Why are you only coming now, where have you been? Did we have to block roads and burn tyres for you to come?” shouted 60-year-old Nomzamo Matoti. “How long does one need to be in the database in order to get a house. Younger people are getting houses before us old people.” 

Rossouw told GroundUp that she had noted the protesters’ complaints. She said that on Friday at 10am she, together with the councillor and other City officials, would meet with community leaders.

At about 9:45am protesters were given five minutes to disperse. They did not. Police then used stun grenades and rubber bullets. GroundUp saw two people being arrested.

Walking into the neighbourhood, one could smell toilets that have stopped working, piles of rubbish and blocked drains.

The City’s rubbish containers are overflowing. Residents complain of unemployment and that they cannot get jobs in the public works programme.

Rubbish has piled up in the informal settlement. Photo: Thembela Ntongana

The drains of Celina Mogedi’s house have been blocked for a week. She also runs a crèche from her home. She says this is not the first time this has happened and her partner has opened a pathway for the water to flow.

The water flows in front of their house onto a pathway that people use to access their houses. “My crèche has been closed because I can’t allow children to come to this. It is not healthy for them. They can get sick,” said Mogedi.

Walking about the informal settlement, each person has a story to tell. One house was propped up with bricks underneath because water keeps coming in. Nondibaniso Nombula, who lives in it, has to use a crate just to get into bed. Her house is next to a canal that is always filled with water.

Kholiswa Jimane said that she has been living in the area for 15 years. She said residents have been cleaning the communal toilets as the City’s cleaners come and go. “Many families have to share a toilet. That is why we keep them locked. Some stopped working long ago,” said Jimane.

All roads had been reopened by the afternoon.

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