7 September 2017

South Africa: Shackdwellers Demand Right to Return to Land

Illegal occupation will not be tolerated, says Nelson Mandela Bay municipality

One person was arrested on Wednesday morning in Port Elizabeth after a small group of backyarders barricaded roads. They were demanding permission to build shacks on an open space from which they had been evicted..

About 20 residents of Ikhamvelihle township used rocks and burning tyres to block traffic along the Addo and Marko roads.They accused Nqaba Bhanga, human settlements head in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, of not responding to their letters. But Bhanga said he had received no letters.

Protest leader Thulani Vena said, "We wrote three letters recently to Nqaba Bhanga in which we were asking for permission to rebuild our shacks in an open space adjacent to Addo Road. We were evicted from the site a few months ago."

"I have been on the housing waiting list for many years. It seems people who are being given houses are those who are related to the officials. I am renting a backyard shack using my children's social grant money."

Vena lives with his wife and four children. He said he had given up hope of ever getting a job after spending many years looking for one.

"I would be happy to own a house so that my children will have a place they call home," he said.

Another protester, Skumbule Mangelitshana, said, "We will only stop protesting after Bhanga responds to our letters. The municipality does not care about providing us with houses. They always call police when residents are holding peaceful protests."

"Police have arrested one of our members. We are not criminals. Our demand is to build shacks on that vacant piece of land. The municipality can then provide for other services when we are already living on the site."

Bhanga said the residents were "lying" about sending him letters. "I never received any letter, not even an email from them."

"I had a meeting with the residents of Ikhamvelihle soon after the recent evictions. However, illegal occupation of that piece of land will not be tolerated. We will remove whoever occupies municipal land without getting permission from us."

Police spokesperson Colonel Priscilla Naidu said a 35-year-old had been arrested and would appear in the Motherwell court.

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