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'They're raping us in open fields'

By Moses Mackay | 2011-11-10 08:04:42.0

A CAPE TOWN resident and member of the Social Justice Coalition Zukiswa Qezo says many women residents at a Khayelitsha informal settlement are being raped when they relieve themselves in an open field due to insufficient toilets in the area.

She was speaking at the second Irene Grootboom Memorial Lecture in Khayelitsha earlier this week.

The event, hosted and organised by the Social Justice Coalition, was attended by about 300 people, including community organisations, parents and children.

Grootboom was a housing rights activist best known for her victory before the Constitutional Court in 2000.

The court in its ruling found the government had not met its obligation to provide adequate housing for the residents of housing rights campaigns in South Africa and elsewhere.

At the time of her death in August 2008 Grootboom, 39, was still living in a shack.

Qezo said Khayelitsha's RR-Section residents - especially women - suffered the indignity of having to answer the call of nature in the open field because of the lack of toilets.

"They (women) do so alongside men. They are being raped on their way to or after they had relieved themselves," she said.

Qezo, who lives in the area, said some residents had also been robbed by criminals in the open field.

"For example, my husband was robbed and stabbed above the eye by criminals after he had relieved himself in the open field," she said.

"Many people had been living in informal settlements without or with insufficient toilets in the Mother City since their arrival from Eastern Cape many years ago," she said.

Qezo, lived in P-Section, also in Khayelitsha, after moving to Cape Town in 1991, and had been put on a waiting list after completing the necessary registration forms for a house with the City of Cape Town. Qezo said many people were facing serious challenges such as diseases and lack of safe and clean sanitation and other basic services.

"This is despite 17 years of democracy," she said.

Gavin Silber, policy coordinator at the Social Justice Coalition, said they had decided to organise four Irene Grootboom Memorial Lectures aimed at interacting with residents regarding the challenges they faced in informal settlements.

There were also "two Cape Towns" he said, one of which was characterised by a more affluent area such as Camps Bay or Sea Point, while another comprised places such as Khayelitsha.

Silber, who lives in the CBD, said if they experienced a sewerage blockage in their area it would take only a day or two to be fixed, whereas a similar problem in Khayelitsha could take weeks or months to be repaired.

One of the residents called on the government to nationalise banks to address land and housing problems in the city.

Residents wanted to know why City of Cape Town officials had said there was no land available for decent housing in the city.

Others said ambulances were unable to get into informal settlements and that people were being denied their constitutional rights.