By: Tatum-Lee Louw
I recently visited the community of Blikkiesdorp in Cape Town, where I was rudely awakened to the unfortunate state of Temporary Relocation Areas in Cape Town. Blikkiesdorp was originally established in 2007, by the City of Cape Town. It is made up of about 2000 corrugated iron housing structures and is home to 20 000 -30 000 people.
Initially, the residents of this Temporary Relocation Area were to receive proper houses in the first year of their relocation. Nine years later, the community has grown cold to the City’s promises and have become comfortable with calling Blikkiesdorp home. The community is made up of a diverse group of people, who are from different parts of Cape Town, all of which were burdened with the housing crisis. Some being homeless before Blikkiesdorp was established.
The corrugated iron housing structures are flimsy and unstable. As I walked through the pathways, one resident was busy hammering a wooden door, outside his structure, just recovering from Cape Town’s Winter wrath, to which they were especially vulnerable. Their structures are not insulated, in summer they experience extreme heat, but in winter it is unbearingly cold.
“Four structures use one toilet, here it is outside. Our water is outside too”
Explains Ettienne , as he politely points towards their toilet facilities. Ettienne spends a generous amount of time trying to uplift the community and is a prominent and influential figure in his community, who recently campaigned for the position of ward councillor in the local elections.
Besides the state of their structures ,the community is plagued with crime. One resident explained;
“If you want to look pretty, you can’t stay here. You must go visit family and sleep there to look pretty. Here, they will steal your new shoes , before you are out of the gate”.
In the park, which is centred right in the middle of the community, young children, from the age of four and upwards, gather around what seems to be a failed attempt at making a proper fire. Young men stand on the corners, in the cold. Ettienne explained that these were the gangsters. Blikkiesdorp is drug infested and daily innocent people get robbed.
As he peeks over his shoulder to check whether my vehicle was still safe, he looked at me firmly and said :
“I need to make sure it’s okay, things happen really fast here, If you were not walking with me , you would have been robbed already. That’s how it is here.”
Many residents are even fearful of attending close relatives funerals, they fear that their houses will get broken into and all the possessions will be stolen, while they are gone.
Although Ettienne and many other community leaders are trying to implement change. They are calling on the help of governmental institutions to address their need. So are many other TRA’s. The community lives in fear of their lives and every day they are confronted with new challenges.