SOETWATER ASKS CITY OF CAPE TOWN FOR HELP

Cape Argus , 19 June 2008

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As displaced immigrants living at Soetwater move from the storm-ravaged lower camp to the upper camp, they have called on the City of Cape Town to help them because they say the provincial government has done nothing for them. About 23 new tents were set up at the more sheltered upper camp. On Wednesday immigrants from the lower camp, whose tents had been blown away by strong winds, were moved to the upper camp. They spent the whole of on Wednesday afternoon transferring their belongings and settling in. Ethiopian national Israel Abate, who is one of the camp spokespersons, said: "We want to re-engage with the city. The province haven't done anything for us since they took over. "There has not been any medical assistance and there have been no services like before." Congolese national Kennedy Buswa, one of the 1 300 immigrants at the site, said: "The city is linked to delivery since we arrived. It is the city that helped us. "They made the volunteers come and made healthcare access available. "Everything was running more smoothly. "When the provincial government took over, this place was running like a military camp." The immigrants have been warned of heavy rains and storms in the next week but, according to Abate, they are still prepared to stay at the site. "We have decided to stay here until our questions are answered and our demands are met. People don't consider any of the other places as safe as this." But Mayor Helen Zille's spokesperson Robert MacDonald said the immigrants at the camp would have to be moved to Blue Waters in Strandfontein as the conditions at Soetwater would soon become unbearable. "Over the next few days we are looking to move people out of this site so that we can close this camp. "It is not healthy and the bad weather is just going to get worse. "When the winds are high, the camp gets battered," he said. He explained that the Blue Waters site was more sheltered, less prone to flooding and closer to the city. MacDonald said Soetwater had not initially been the best option. He said that the city, province and United Nations officials would begin talks with the immigrants this morning to explain the move to the Strandfontein site. Based on resistance they had received from the immigrants in recent weeks, MacDonald said the talks would be tricky and the city might have to deal with the different groups separately. "There is no intention to bring buses before we have explained everything to the people," said MacDonald. But Jeremy Michaels, head of provincial communications, said the refugees claims of provincial inaction were unfounded. "The city is operationally in charge of the camp and they always have been. The province has only been providing the food," said Michaels. He said the province and its disaster management centre had held numerous discussions with the Soetwater camp leaders.