16 April 2018

South Africa: Khayelitsha Land Occupiers Describe Their Desperation

About 230 out of an initial 500 people remain, some having had their shacks demolished three times, and yet new land occupiers keep arriving

"Law Enforcement officials never showed us a court order on all the occasions they came and destroyed our shacks," says community leader Andiswa Kolanisi of Msindweni informal settlement, Khayelitsha.

She said the City destroyed shacks on 3 March, 13 March and 3 April.

Kolanisi said she and other residents confronted the officials on 3 April. "We asked them where the court order was, who was in charge, and who we could talk to about the court order. They ignored us and proceeded to demolish our shacks."

The officials tore down her shack and destroyed her window frame and door, her bed and cupboard, and also her kitchen dishes.

Mayoral Committee Member for Area East Councillor Anda Ntsodo said, "The City of Cape Town can confirm that there is a court interdict on the land. The interdict was served and it prevents anyone from illegally erecting structures on the land without the consent of the owner. The land in question belongs to the City of Cape Town"

Kolanisi said she had a list of about 230 people living in the settlement. "When we moved onto the land the first time [in February], we were about 500. Other residents returned to their homes and backyards because of demolitions," she said.

She said those who had remained were "really desperate", had nowhere to go, and did not even have the means to transport their shacks elsewhere. She said some relied on seasonal work at farms and were currently without jobs.

"We have to rebuild our shacks after each time the City destroys them, otherwise thugs would steal our building materials if they are scattered around," said Kolanisi.

Kolanisi showed GroundUp how the settlement had been organised. "See, we leave space between shacks so that they are not closely clustered. Fire spreads easily from one shack to another when shacks are too close to each other."

"We also leave space for streets. This place looks good now. It looked like a scrap yard after the last demolition," said Kolanisi.

Nonceba Ndlebe's two-roomed shack was demolished twice. She now has one room. "The City left me without building materials, so I was forced to collect pieces of [scrap] building materials to rebuild my shack," she said.

Nokuthula Malgas has had her shack destroyed three times. "My shack was big when I first built it here, but now it has shrunk because I lose material each time the City destroys it," she said. She lives with her husband and three children, aged two, seven and 11.

Community leader Noluthando Manyefane said residents had been allowed to build shacks near Philippi Plaza in Philippi. "Why can't [the City] allow us to do the same here?"

She described the shack demolishers as "wild", "merciless", "as if they were high on tik".

Manyefane said about 50 residents arrived on Thursday night to build new shacks. "They used candles while they built their shacks. During the day they go to their workplaces or hunt for jobs," she said.

On Friday, more people arrived. One of them was Zolani Ntlemeza, who works as a supervisor, currently on short time, at the Lord Charles Hotel in Somerset West. "The money I earn is not enough to pay rent, buy electricity and support my jobless wife and [three] kids, so I made a decision to stay here," he said. "Here I will build a big shack so that my kids can have their own room."

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