5 March 2018

South Africa: Gugulethu Occupiers Call for City to Buy Land for Them

Residents of Gugulethu have vowed to take to the streets if Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille does not resolve the township's homelessness crisis at a community meeting scheduled for Thursday.

"If she doesn't come up with something concrete to help us, we will riot and burn tyres all over Gugulethu and in the Cape Town CBD," said community leader Melvin Tshabalala. "We want the City to buy all the private land that we have occupied and give it to us."

"If the City builds double-storey flats here, about 700 homeless residents can get a place to stay," said Tshabalala.

Homeless residents have already erected shacks in Whatsapp informal settlement near a railway line in NY4, in Ramaphosa Square near Gugulethu Old Age Home, in Melville Village in section 132, and in Dubai informal settlement near Uluntu Centre, said Tshabalala. "There are about 35 families living in each new informal settlement," said Tshabalala.

Community leader Phindile Nazo said he and Tshabalala together with three other community leaders met De Lille at the Civic Centre in Cape Town to discuss the lack of housing on Thursday night. "She said she is prepared to buy us the pieces of land we have occupied if the private land owners agree to sell them to the City," said Nazo.

The mayor, according to Nazo, also said that the City could not supply basic services while they are living on private land. "We told her to give us basic services because she has done so in Marikana [in Philippi] even though it is private land," said Nazo. He said that De Lille had promised to brief Thursday's community meeting on the outcomes of her meetings with the private landowners.

The mayor's spokesperson, Xolani Koyana, confirmed that the meeting with the community leaders had taken place: "Mayor De Lille made it clear that she cannot give permission for them to settle on any of the tracts of land as this would be illegal but she reiterated the City -- under her leadership -- is willing to assist."

"The mayor met with one of the landowners and they have indicated that the land is earmarked for the development of rental units. They have also made it clear that they are proceeding with an application for a court interdict against the land invasion to be heard later this month. The City cannot take further action on this matter due to the ongoing litigation," said Koyana.

When GroundUp arrived at one of the occupied areas on Sunday, residents were erecting shacks while others sat inside one shack chatting and cooking.

"We feel cold at night, so we make fire to keep warm," said Tshabalala. He said the homeless residents clubbed together to buy food.

Nomaxabiso Zondi said: "We have no electricity, but we will continue to live here." She lives with four children who attend school.

Sindiswa Mninzi said that because there are no taps on the land; she bathes at nearby Luyolo Community Hall.

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