Cape Town — Talks aimed at finding a solution to the eviction of hundreds of families from an informal settlement in Lwandle, Cape Town, were "not a smooth-sailing exercise", a government official said on Monday.
"It was a very difficult exercise. There was a lot of mistrust between ourselves and community members," a deputy director general in the human settlements department, Mbulelo Tshangana, told an inquiry into the matter.
The inquiry, set up by Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu last month, heard that the evictees would be moved back to the Sanral-owned land they were evicted from.
Another piece of land they had been moved to, also belonging to the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral), was found to be inadequate.
Residents are currently being housed in a community hall.
About 200 informal corrugated iron structures with concrete floors were being erected to house them on the original piece of ground.
Sanitation and other basic services were also being provided.
"The next exercise is to facilitate the relocation of the affected families into those units," Housing Development Agency (HDA) programme manager Bosco Khoza said.
The HDA was trying to establish exactly how many shacks were demolished.
On June 2 and 3, about 200 illegally erected shacks were burnt and demolished after Sanral was granted a court order authorising the evictions.
"The sheriff reported that 234 shacks were dismantled. The community contends that the number of families affected is 849," Khoza said.
"We've also done our preliminary assessment of... the most accurate number. We think it's more plausible to talk about 402 structures."
The residents will be housed in the informal structures until they can be permanently resettled through a City of Cape Town housing project to be completed in Macassar next year.
The announcement by Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille about the relocation of the Lwandle residents to Macassar was met with outrage last month.
Macassar backyard dwellers, who claim they should be the intended beneficiaries of the housing project, clashed with police during protests against the move.
"The commitment by the mayor was unambiguous," Khoza said.
"She made a firm commitment."
Monday marked day one of the first round of hearings -- which will focus on submissions by the various entities involved in the evictions.
The evicted residents were expected to testify during the second round of hearings.
The commission will look at how Sanral applied for and obtained a court order allowing the evictions [and] the roles of the sheriff, City of Cape Town, metro police, the SA Police Service, and other government entities.
The commission is also tasked with establishing who the affected Lwandle residents are and why they occupied the land while there was a waiting list for the provision of government housing.
Sisulu is to be presented with the commission's findings and recommendations.
The commission, headed by advocate Denzil Potgieter, has until August 5 to conclude the inquiry. The other members of the commission are Nomhle Dambuza, Mampe Ramotsamai, Butch Steyn, Annelize van Wyk and Barnabas Xulu.