Wolwerivier’s future questioned

People living at Wolwerivier say they are isolated from the rest of the world and feels the City is not playing open cards with them.

The decision to stop the expansion of Wolwerivier by a further 4 500 housing units has been hailed as a victory by housing activists.

The City of Cape Town announced last week that it would not expand the temporary relocation camp.

Nkosikhona Swartbooi, head of organising at housing activist group Ndifuna Ukwazi, said it was an important decision for residents facing eviction in places such as Sea Point and Woodstock.

“The City’s decision to stop the planned expansion of Wolwerivier represents the power that Reclaim the City and other land and housing activists have and that has been displayed by political actions. The City cannot continue to send poor people to places like Wolwerivier where there’s a huge lack of very basic services.”

Affordable housing would make life a lot better for workers commuting long hours and using more than 40% of their salaries on transport.

“We can’t regard Cape Town as an inclusive city if we do not build inner-city affordable housing for the workers of Cape Town.”

Mr Swartbooi said Reclaim the City supporters in Woodstock had been scrutinising affordable housing sites and hoped for further discussions on them with the City.

It would be unwise for the City to move the Wolwerivier residents without meeting with them first to hear their needs, he said.

Earlier this year, Wolwerivier residents rejected the City’s proposal to expand the camp.

Wolwerivier community leader Magdalene Minnaar described it as “adding poverty on top of poverty”, and she asked how it could happen when there were no basic services in the area.

On Monday, Ms Minnaar said the community wanted to know why the City had changed its mind about the expansion.

“The tender was already advertised in the paper. What changed? We are tired of being kept in the dark. We only hear about developments in the media. We would like for the Cty to inform us about things.”

She fears Wolwerivier’s huts will not last long.

“We were told they would last for ten years, but I’m not so sure because no maintenance is being done to them. It is already three-and-a-half years in,” she said.

Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, said a R2.9 million planning budget for Wolwerivier would be allocated to another project.

“We are of the opinion that there may be other better located sites that should be prioritised first for the development of housing opportunities.”

The City still owned the site and a decision on how it should be developed would be made in future.

“In the meantime it remains a temporary relocation site.”

Mr Herron said affordable housing in the inner-city was vital. “Apart from creating a fragmented city, apartheid spatial planning was also characterised by little or no investment to stimulate economic activity in these settlements.

“Providing affordable housing opportunities closer to where people work or close to public transport is non-negotiable.

“In this way, we will create a more integrated and inclusive city where residents have equal access to opportunities.”

Mr Herron said the City also wanted to build affordable housing in business districts beyond the heart of Cape Town, including Bellville, Parow, Khayelitsha, Claremont, Mitchell’s Plain, Wynberg and Plumstead.

Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy, said Wolwerivier residents had security of tenure.

“Residents who would like to benefit from future housing projects are encouraged to register on the City’s housing database,” she said.