In a statement on Tuesday, the DA said that it was concerned by the department of public works and infrastructure’s apparent lack of a plan for dilapidated buildings and land occupied by squatters in Cape Town.
They argue that decaying structures could be demolished to make way for housing for poorer residents in the city, but Minister Patricia de Lille, a former mayor of the city, reportedly has “no plans” as yet to release six identified land parcels.
DA MP Emma Louise Powell said these land parcels, including a property in prime Upper Darling Street, could yield in excess of 93,000 affordable housing opportunities for low-income Cape Town residents.
“Minister De Lille responded to this request in October, noting that the DPWI has no plans to release these land parcels and properties.”
On Monday, Powell and Councillor David Bryant, along with Cape Town health and problem building inspectors, conducted an oversight visit of the Upper Darling Street property owned by public works.
They found more than 30 families living in squalid conditions.
“With no access to electricity, the families are forced to burn paraffin lamps at night, which last year resulted in the upper story of the building being gutted by fire,” said Powell.
“The outer water pipes on the building have either been broken or stolen, resulting in waste water pouring directly out of the building on to the periphery of the property from the upstairs taps. Lawns below are used as rubble and rubbish dumps, and not a single wall remains untarnished by graffiti.
“The toilets and baths are also out of order, resulting in children having to be washed by their parents along dark, concrete corridors.
“In a hall on the second story of the building, zinc sheeting has been used to erect make-shift demarcation walls between the various sleeping areas occupied by single women.
“The broken windows throughout the building, combined with a lack of working security gates, mean that at night residents are forced to padlock and bolt the make-shift doors to their sleeping quarters until morning light.
“The building’s top-story roof, gutted by fire, leaks permanently, and poses an imminent danger of structural collapse.
“It is clear that this problem building is nothing short of a house of horrors, unsuitable for human habitation, no least the habitation of young, vulnerable children.”
They claimed that city health officials had sent numerous letters to the department.
“We now urgently call on the minister to come to the table and address this imminent disaster, before the building either collapses, or is completely gutted by fire. Internal departmental processes regarding eviction and demolition orders have taken years to materialise, at the expense of the basic human rights of the building’s occupants, and the housing demands of a growing urban city.
“If the department cannot restore and rehabilitate this building of its own volition, then the building must be handed to another sphere of government urgently, to be provisioned for inner-city housing.”
(Edited by Charles Cilliers)