22 February 2019

South Africa: Eastern Cape Residents Must Make Way for Taxi Rank

Second time in four years that the people of Bhekela informal settlement will be moved

People living in Bhekela in Engcobo, Eastern Cape, have objected to plans to relocate them for a second time.

The informal settlement, about an hour from Mthatha, was started in 2005 by about 40 people from villages in the area who wanted to be closer to Engcobo. The municipality later provided basic services, electricity and standpipe taps.

But in 2015, the municipality told the residents to move to an open field nearby to make way for a bus rank.

Khanyisa Mbuthuma, the community chairperson, said that at first they refused to move. But officials then promised them jobs and to build hawker stalls. "We could not say no to development," he said. Mbuthuma claims they were also offered R150 each to demolish their shacks, but the money never came.

"They even promised to service the area since we had water and electricity before. They provided us a generator which they promised to supply with diesel and a security guard, but it never worked and they took it back," he said.

There are no toilets. Residents relieve themselves in a field. "There are no lights here even though we live next to town. We are using candles and paraffin lights and they are not safe ... The crime rate is very high," Mbuthuma said.

Mbuthuma said they have met with acting mayor Siyabulela Zangqa, who promised water tanks. So too did his predecessor, former mayor Lizeka Bongo-Tyali. "What they feed us is empty promises," said Mbuthuma, who is a casual worker in the waste collection department of the municipality.

But Engcobo Municipality spokesperson Lusizo Ntshinka gives a totally different story. He said Bhekela is in an area rezoned for business and not residences. "We are not aware that they have turned it into their homes which is not allowed," said Ntshinka.

He said ten Bhekela residents were given new hawker stalls at the new bus rank. The remaining people in Bhekela would be assisted, but he said residents would have to be relocated for the second phase of the new taxi rank. He said the municipality will provide water tanks, but for business purposes.

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