Wolwerivier is situated more than 30 kilometres from Cape Town city centre and about ten kilometres from the nearest formal suburb. It consists of rows of beige and green corrugated structures, flat gravel roads and no vegetation apart from the Port Jackson plants that have begun to grow alongside the houses.
The City of Cape Town calls Wolwerivier an Incremental Development Area. This is a place where people will settle permanently and eventually own the properties on which they live.
Besides security guards and their dogs, Wolwerivier stands empty.
Skandaalkamp is a couple of kilometres away from Wolwerivier. It is located next to Vissershok landfill site. Many residents are unemployed and survive by "skarreling" — searching for food on the rubbish dump. This has become increasingly difficult as security has tightened up on the landfill, meaning that most of the “skarreling” happens on the edges of the landfill.
Residents of Skandaalkamp were set to be moved to Wolwerivier this week. However, worried about the lack of job opportunities in Wolwerivier and with much discontent about the conditions in the new settlement, they have refused to move until their questions are answered.
Wolwerivier’s houses are all single roomed with a small bathroom attached, and fitted with a plastic sink, chemical toilet and electricity meter. Each house is lit by a single light, leaving the bathroom in total darkness. Numerous sharp metal edges in the houses also pose a threat to children.
The houses do not have geysers. Benedicta van Minnen, the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements, says, “Hot water geysers are currently not a possibility as we utilise emergency housing funding, the terms of which are stipulated by the national government, and cannot be supplied from our available funding.”
A tender for the installation of showers was only sent out last week, meaning that residents will have to make another plan until the showers are installed.
Van Minnen was unable to say when the procurement process for the tenders and the installation of the shower fittings would be completed as the water and sanitation department “is still in the procurement process.”
As for the small size of the units, she says that is something governed by the emergency housing policy. The design and layout of the units is set out by the “current term tender available to implement and construct these units.”
“City officials are only able to implement design changes prior to the tender procurement process and, once awarded, the typology has to be applied to all incremental development areas. This message was clearly relayed to the community representatives and the communities at large,” states Van Minnen.
No streetlights or other services such as a clinic, security hut, church, community hall or office for social services have yet been developed.
On Thursday, there was still no fencing erected around the area, leaving children and animals in danger of walking over the train tracks on the settlement’s edge or wandering into the dense bush.
The crèche, Sunshine Educare, that is currently servicing residents of Skandaalkamp is set to move to Wolwerivier and will have to find space for a huge influx of children. This is because Wolwerivier will house 500 families from surrounding areas such as the informal settlement next to it, as well as Skandaalkamp, Rooidakkies and Richwood.
Many living in Skandaalkamp also maintain small vegetable gardens as well as chickens and goats in their yards as a source of food. Where these animals will be kept after the move to Wolwerivier remains uncertain as the houses do not have yard space and the proposed site for the animals is currently just open land.
The City says that they have “tried to be as accommodating as possible” in relation to the relocation of livestock. “They (livestock) will be relocated on the northern perimeter of the site where land is available to continue with their farming. Residents have been advised that they will only be able to take a limited number of pets with them, in accordance with by-laws and legislation,” says van Minnen.
Sylvia Jonga has lived in Skandaalkamp for five years and is not happy about the move. Her husband, who is a pastor, runs a church that is attached to their house and she fears that the church will not be able to continue in Wolwerivier.
“There are lots of people who attend church. There is no church on the other side [Wolwerivier]. There is also no garden for chickens and goats,” says Jonga.
The Jongas have been told that they have to apply for permission to put up a church in Wolwerivier and if this is successful there is still the question of who will pay for the church and how the different faiths will share the space.
Jonga currently lives with eight people and her family will have the “possibility” of receiving two houses in Wolwerivier. If this happens, four people will be sleeping in a single room. If they do not receive two homes, the eight of them will have to squeeze into one single roomed house.
In Skandaalkamp, Jonga’s home is a shack split into several rooms, all meticulously tidy. The yard is neatly swept and there is a small garden where vegetables used to grow, until she decided not to replant because she believed that the move to Wolwerivier was imminent already in December last year. Six months later, she is still in Skandaalkamp and there are no vegetables to be seen.
A short walk away, Micheala Dick hangs up washing outside her parent’s home. There is no space for washing lines such as those outside the houses in Wolwerivier. Dick is in matric this year and lived as a boarder in a neighbour’s house. She has been told that she is not on the lists to move into Wolwerivier because there is an issue with her being a boarder and her shack is not actually hers.
“I don’t know. I don’t have a place that side”, says Dick.
Frank Peterson says that he is uncertain about the move. Peterson works part time as a plumber and has lived in Skandaalkamp for eight years. The fact that Wolwerivier is even further away from job opportunities and the small size of the houses concerns him.
Van Minnen says that work opportunities will not be impacted as the residents are being relocated no more than a few kilometres from their original settlement.
Peterson says that he has seen the exterior of the houses at Wolwerivier but hasn’t been inside one. He has heard that they are very small units. The City only afforded the community leaders the opportunity to view the new development.
Some residents of Skandaalkamp are happy about the move since Wolwerivier will have electricity, toilets in the houses and actual streets.
Despite this, even people who are happy about the move, wish that Wolwerivier had larger houses with yards, and was situated closer to job opportunities.
Ayanda Qobonqwana who lives with her boyfriend and baby is happy about the move, but had hoped their new home would be in a better location and have better amenities.
“I have chickens and cats and I have to kill them [before the move],” says Qobonqwana as she has heard that there will be no space for them in Wolwerivier.
Esther Maakayi who works at the crèche in Skandaalkamp is also happy that they are moving to Wolwerivier, but she is aware that Wolwerivier has problems.
“It’s better than nothing,” says Maakayi.
Magdelene Minnaar, who is a community leader in the informal settlement of Wolwerivier, says that she is very concerned about the new development. “There are no taxis, no transport, no shopping centre, and there is no place to buy electricity,” says Minnaar.
Minnaar says that some families in Wolwerivier are very large — with nine children — and these families will most likely have to share a one-roomed house. She says that the residents of Wolwerivier informal settlement only accepted the move to the development when they were shown plans for two-bedroomed brick houses.
Just before the actual building started, Minnaar says they were shown the new plans.
“People are very unhappy about Wolwerivier,” says Minnaar.
John Taylor of the Wolwerivier Action Group (WAG) says that there are concerns about the living conditions, the services not yet finalised and the infrastructure in Wolwerivier.
Despite the many apprehensions residents have about the move, they have begun to pack up their belongings and wait for the inevitable move.
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