Government intensifies relief efforts at Masiphumelele and Taiwan informal settlements

Government is working around the clock to fast-track relief and aid to residents of Masiphumelele and Taiwan informal settlements in Cape Town.

This comes after a blaze that wrecked 1 000 structures in Masiphumelele in December 2020, forcing the area to be declared a disaster to enable resources to be allocated for the immediate relief and response to the more than 6 000 affected residents.  

On Tuesday, the Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu led a meeting with Western Cape Human Settlements MEC Tertuis Simmers and City of Cape Town MMC for Human Settlements Councillor Malusi Booi, to ensure that the community is receiving the help it needs.

According to the department, the three spheres of government, together with the Housing Development Agency (HDA), confirmed that an estimated R32 million has been made available to provide temporary structures, water and sanitation facilities to Masiphumelele residents.

In the meantime, some people will be accommodated in a nearby sports field, while the erection of temporary structures commences.

Meanwhile, the City of Cape Town, through Executive Mayor Dan Plato’s office, has already distributed over 1 100 food parcels, mattresses and blankets to those affected.

These include non-perishable items that are enough to feed a family of four for two weeks, in addition to the donations received from the public and organisations distributing relief.

Booi said the City is committed to ensuring that immediate solutions for the Masiphumelele community are implemented as quickly as possible.

“Much more work remains to be done at Masiphumelele and we urge the community to please be patient while the City, Western Cape government and the national government starts with the implementation on the ground within this week,” he added.

Taiwan informal settlement 

Meanwhile, the Taiwan informal settlement in Khayelitsha, which was ravaged by a fire on New Year’s Eve, leaving 500 residents destitute is also getting assistance.

Minister Sisulu, accompanied by MEC Simmers and MMC Booi visited the area and met with community representatives on Monday.

The department is working hard to lend a helping hand even though the area is not easily accessible due to the density of the settlement.

“The basic principle of the building allows for a fire break. However, this is not the case in Taiwan where there are no spaces between structures. The disaster that occurred there was clearly bound to happen,” said Sisulu.

However, affected families have since been housed in a nearby church while the site is being cleared, and the Gift of the Givers is on-site assisting with food. 

The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) has also been provided with a list of the affected Taiwan community members to assist with further relief.

 “We have decided to work as a cluster, including the Department of Social Development so that we maximise our impact. We have also met with the community leadership of Masiphumelele who have been very cooperative and very positive in their inputs,” Sisulu said.

According to the department, half of Masiphumelele, which is a wetland, will be fenced off, because water is a scarce resource that ought to be protected.

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said while the departments are busy with immediate relief efforts, a lasting solution that will see an end to fire disasters is needed.

“It is not right that we keep going back to the same communities to try and deal with the same problem.”

Hundreds of units to be built

The HDA is providing the role of an implementing agent and plans to construct 420 units in the Masiphumelele site using alternative building technologies.

Also, a buffer that seeks to preserve the wetlands adjacent to this community will be erected.

A further 656 units will also be constructed on City of Cape Town-owned land, including water and sanitation services.

“The HDA further aims to hire locally sourced labour as part of government’s intervention and long-term plan.”

The permanent solution includes the use of structures built with alternative building technology in future developments to provide a more permanent solution to affected communities.

The three spheres of government have thanked all organisations and members of the public for their generous donations and will continue their efforts to ensure the well-being of those affected by the fires.