root - October 10, 2023

Structural concerns over Potsdam Road bridge result in plan to relocate 225 households

Peter Luhanga   

Cape Town — Desperate for shelter, Mbuyiselo Pama, 42, resorted to digging into the Potsdam Road embankment where it bridges the railway line in Dunoon in order to level space for a two-room shack to house himself, his wife, and three children. 

Other people in need of housing have also dug into the embankement, with some of them exposing the bridge’s pillars. This has obstructed the railway line and compromised the bridge’s structural integrity. 

The Potsdam Road bridge is a crucial link connecting the Winning Way industrial park, Dunoon, Killarney Gardens, Montague Gardens, and Table View.

Pama says he can feel the ground shake whenever a truck goes over the bridge, which wobbles noticeably. 

Pama is one of 225 families whose shacks have been numbered by the City of Cape Town as part of a plan to move them to a safer location to prevent collapse of the bridge and the loss of life that would likely accompany such a disaster. 

Pama says when he arrived from Johannesburg in 2015, he initially rented a shack in Dunoon’s Siyahlala informal settlement but was unable to keep up with the rent. He said the only available space for him to build a shack was against the bridge. 

However, he has no water, sanitation, or electricity, and he and his family have to endure the constant noise of passing cars.

“We can’t find any rest here … the constant noise from passing cars never lets up, living here is been bad. There is no quality of life, we are scared but we cannot go anywhere. When loaded trucks are passing overhead, the earth shakes and the bridge wobbles,” he said.

Pama’s neighbour Wonga Booi, 31, arrived in Dunoon from the Eastern Cape in 2016. Booi dug back into the bridge embankement to create a level area of his one-room shack not far from the bridge pillars. 

“If a car veers off the road, it could end up right on top of my roof,” he said, “It’s frightening. We live with the constant fear that an accident could occur at any moment.”

At the end of September, Pama said City officials came to mark their shacks and informed them they’d be relocated.

He said the City didn’t say where or when they were to be moved, but he welcomed the plan.

In response to questions, City spokesperson Unathi Kondile said the City had numbered 225 structures for removal.

Asked what type of accommodation would be provided to the residents earmarked to be relocated, the city stated, the decision on the type of accommodation will follow due process with all feasible options to be looked at and discussed.

“It is likely however that affected households could be assisted with building material to supplement their existing material. No decisions have been made,” stated the city.

The city also stated that it has not identified land yet for this planned relocation, “actual relocation timelines will be dependent on identifying suitable land. The city will communicate on timelines once the land has been identified and all due process has been followed.”

Regarding the bridge structural integrity, Mayco member for Urban Mobility, Rob Quintas, stated a recent structural engineer inspection, affirmed the continued structural integrity of the bridge.– ENDS“From a technical standpoint, this means there is no immediate danger to the bridge’s stability. It is crucial to grasp that although residents may feel vibrations when trucks pass, it doesn’t automatically imply that the bridge is structurally compromised. It is worth emphasizing that some degree of vibration is typical and doesn’t necessarily signal structural issues. Structural engineers take these factors into account during bridge design and assessment to ensure their structural soundness and capacity to withstand anticipated loads and vibrations,” said Quintas

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