Lady is the friendliest of the dozens of dogs abandoned in Skandaalkamp, an informal settlement that has been dismantled over the past week. She's a short slightly plump mongrel, almost entirely brown, but with a white muzzle and paws. She's one of those dogs that seems to permanently smile.
Her friend Gettis is a little skittish, but also unconditionally friendly once he's confident you're not intending to hurt him.
Most of the other dogs wandering about Skandaalkamp look confused and forlorn. One sits curled up in what used to be his owners' home, petrified of the volunteers who come near him to offer food.
Skandaalkamp was until a few days ago the home of some of Cape Town's most marginalised people. Most of the residents scavenge the adjacent Vissershoek landfill site, or the bins of suburbs like Tableview on garbage collection day, for recyclables. There were about 200 odd families, and despite their desperate circumstances, they had a church, a creche, a spaza shop and a taxi three times a day to Dunoon.
This is what the church looked like last week:
And this is what it looked like yesterday (6 July):
Skandaalkamp has been entirely demolished. Neither photos nor words easily convey the difference in what the place looked like last week compared to now. It is smouldering ruins. Nothing stands, not the creche, not a single home. It smells of burning. Corrugated iron and junk is strewn everywhere. A few people were hanging around trying to salvage left over bits of metal and other unwanted goods.
From Thursday last week (2 July) through to Sunday, the City of Cape Town moved Skandaalkamp's residents seven kilometres further away from the city, to Wolwerivier, a new state housing development. People took everything they could in furniture trucks, including themselves. But there was no space for their pets in the once-off transport offered by the City.
Goats, kept by some residents, had to be walked to Wolwerivier along the N7. A good deal of the chickens were slaughtered and eaten, though some fitted onto the removal trucks. The dogs were for the most part left behind. It is not clear what happened to the few cats people kept.
The City's Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements, Benedicta van Minnen, told GroundUp, "The City has been as accommodating as possible. The livestock owners will be relocated to the northern perimeter of the site where land is available to continue with their farming. Residents were advised that they would only be able to take a limited number of pets with them, in accordance with by-laws and legislation."
Wolwerivier is what the City of Cape Town government calls an incremental development area. The City describes it as "much-needed formal housing and a drastic improvement in the living conditions of the beneficiaries." Its development is costing R35 million, and when full it will accommodate about 500 families. For the last decade it has been the state's intention to move people from nearby informal settlements to Wolwerivier. Negotiations with Skandaalkamp's residents has been ongoing for the past couple of years. But the residents of Skandaalkamp and the City are at odds with each other on what was promised.
In many ways, Wolwerivier is an improvement on Skandaalkamp. They have electricity, running water and a toilet. Skandaalkamp had none of this. Ironically the electricity grid ran right through Skandaalkamp, as this photo shows.
Yesterday, some former Skandaalkamp teenage girls now living in Wolwerivier were taking advantage of their new electricity to power hair equipment. And at least one family was watching television. Children mingled with the few dogs that had made the journey as well as overseas volunteers for their not yet built creche. A spaza shop is being established.
But in many other ways, Wolwerivier is a frightening prospect for Skandaalkamp's residents. The houses are tiny. They consist of a single room with a tap and a plastic sink, and a separate toilet room. There's no bath or shower. The houses look, feel and are cheap. The livelihood for most residents, scavenging garbage, is now much further away. How transport will work is unclear, and there is no obvious way for many of the residents to even get food, or, for some, to collect their social grants.
Wolwerivier is bleak. Not a blade of grass has been planted. It's not clear how children, luckily still on holiday, will get to school in not so nearby Philadelphia or Vissershoek. There's no church and no creche, not yet anyway. People currently have less space than they did in Skandaalkamp. The City says their properties can be expanded; it's not clear how.
The City is talking Wolwerivier up. A statement on Wolwerivier by the previous Mayco Member for Human Settlements Siyabulela Mamkeli in October 2014 said, "The West Coast has been identified as a growth corridor for the city. It is ideally located to drive the City’s vision of transport-oriented development."
But Wolwerivier retains all Skandaalkamp's social problems: alcoholism and many children with signs of foetal alcohol syndrome, lack of integration between Xhosa and Afrikaans residents, and, most critically, low levels of education, few educational opportunities and no obvious role for the vast majority of residents in the formal economy - not today nor in the foreseeable future.
The potholed road off the N7 on the way to Wolwerivier is lined with high-value equestrian farms. Nearby there are some magnificent properties.
Yesterday afternoon Metro Law Enforcement's Animal Impound Unit came to Skandaalkamp to capture the abandoned dogs. The four men of the unit were friendly and well-intentioned, though perhaps not sufficiently well-equipped to catch dogs. After negotiations about which dogs to return to their owners, and which to impound, several attempts, alternately comical and distressing, were made to capture the tamest ones.
Lady and Gettis were eventually caught, loaded into a trailer and taken to Wolwerivier.
Later that day they were reunited with their owners Lena and Ayanda.
A plan was also made for children who wanted to reclaim their dogs to meet the Animal Impound Unit who agreed to return today to Skandaalkamp. Unfortunately at least one dog was found dead from exposure or disease this morning, next to food that had been left for him.
At the time of writing nine dogs have been found. In the photo below, Frankie is reunited with his dog Kameid. Frankie's brother William was so insistent on not being separated from Kameid again, that he rode in a cage with Kameid back to Wolwerivier.
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