Imizamo Yethu residents complain of corruption, nepotism in rebuilding efforts

On Tuesday, members of the Imizamo Yethu community marched to the Cape Town mayor’s office in protest of the city’s super-blocking project, which they have rejected, and delivered a list of demands to mayor Patricia de Lille. The Daily Vox visited Imizamo Yethu to speak to residents about their concerns.

Nombuyiseno Ndudi, 36
We were very proud of the turnout at the protest in Cape Town. We were told it was a minority that doesn’t want the super-blocking, but clearly that is not the case. Even before talking about super-blocking, the city still has not even found a piece of land where people can first be relocated to. That soccer field [where people have been moved to] is a death sentence. So why must people be treated like this? Who can live for five months without electricity? We don’t ask for free services, we have bought our electricity before the fire, and after the fire they tell us to move.

According to the City of Cape Town, its project seeks to “provide better services” by expanding roads between rows of shacks to allow emergency vehicles to pass through. It also requires residents to move into structures provided by the city. The project is part of the City’s effort to hinder shack fires like the one that gripped Imizamo Yethu in March this year.

City of Cape Town redesigning Imizamo Yethu but residents know nothing about it

*Senzo Mahlope, 43
On that side of Imizamo Yethu, Madiba Square, they wanted super-blocking, those small three-by-three metre government shacks. But here we don’t want it because it’s too small if you have kids. I have three kids, how can we live in such a small place? And for others with more children, where must they go? They also say they want to remove all houses along the roads to open a trench where they’ll put in the electricity. But why not just put up electricity poles like they did on the other half of Imizamo Yethu? They want to make a big road but we don’t want that, it’s enough this one. What is important is we want our houses, we don’t want to move somewhere else. We want to stay here.

In March, Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille signed an agreement with Imizamo Yethu residents agreeing to super-blocking. Since then other residents have come forward in protest of this decision, saying the people who signed the agreement were corrupt. The homes of two community leaders who agreed to the city’s plans for super-blocking were set on fire. 

*Sarah Dodo, 32
What normally happens after a shack burns down is the city provides materials to rebuild, but that was not the case with us. We’ve been waiting since March, but instead they’ve come to demolish shacks and try to have us move to that field. Their delivery of the materials was conditional on us moving in into a three-by-three metre [shack]. If my structure was as large as this before the fire, and after the fire I’ve restored it to how it was again, why now am I being told to move into something smaller? For what good reason? A shack is an insult already. I hate shacks, but I can’t do otherwise because I can’t sell my body to afford a formal house.

Residents of the Imizamo Yethu community in Hout Bay have been fighting an ongoing battle for housing since  shack fires swept through part of the area in March. Since then the community has protested the City of Cape Town’s delays while the City claims that the community is unwilling to compromise in favour of its plans to aid the community.

Ariel view of the city plans to install the road. Red dots represent the shacks that will be demolished.


*Mbali Majola, 29
Since the death of Songezo we’ve lost many others to police violence. We’ve lost Siyamthanda Betana and after that it was his father who could not bear the loss. Another woman died while seven months pregnant after she inhaled tear gas, it was her funeral last week Saturday. It’s horrible, it’s really horrible what’s been happening here. And those people down there in formal zones [of Imizamo Yethu] must come feel what we’ve been feeling. We can’t keep sending the reps to their offices, they are serving the community, so they must come to the community that they are serving.

Residents say a number of residents of Imizamo Yethu have died during the unrest as a result of police brutality and negligence.

*Sam Khumalo, 36
What happened after the fire of March is that the people who were affected had to elect representatives from amongst them. But we found the people who were leading us were in formal housing. How is that possible? Their living conditions and situation is completely different to ours and yet they represent us. That’s when the problem started to escalate, because we refused to accept it. But what happened on April 3rd is that Patricia de Lille refused to recognise the representatives who were elected by this place, and instead recognised those who are not. What’s most annoying about them is all their talk of “stakeholders”, “community ventures” and “macro politics” – all this fancy wording trying to confuse people with politics. We’re not interested in their talking, it’s not going to get us a house.

Imizamo Yethu is separated into neighbourhoods with the area closest to the main road having formal brick and mortar housing, while those closer to the mountain live in informal structures (Dontse’Yakhe and Shooting Range site).

Pamela Sofika, 44, representative of Imizamo Yethu’s Dontse’Yakhe site
These leaders who represent us compete. The leaders in Madiba Square signed the agreement for super-blocking without informing others. The [Madiba Square] community is not happy with the agreement, they are very angry. These leaders have been abusing power. They’ve become power-hungry, greedy and corrupt. We don’t say every plan of government is nonsense, but this super-blocking is nonsense. These community leaders will attend meetings with government and agree to its plan, only to have a tender – not caring about how the community is going to be affected. Another corruption from them is that they if they get a tender they get their friends, neighbours and family in on it – nepotism is what I think you call it. And they’ve been corrupt for years – we’ve been quiet for years.

Voxes have been edited for brevity and clarity

*Names have been changed