On Human Rights Day, communities from informal settlements in Cape Town marched for land for housing.
Thousands of disgruntled informal settlement, backyarders and landless mostly from townships in Cape Town marched to the Civic Centre to hand over a memorandum to various government offices calling for expropriation of land for housing.
The march was organised by the Social Justice Coalition, Ndifuna Ukwazi, Reclaim the City and District 6 Working Committee. Their three main demands are:
- land tenure security,
- upgrading of informal settlements and
- land for decent housing.
“We are supposed to be celebrating Human Rights Day today but there is nothing to celebrate. Government has failed us since the dawn of democracy. It is surprising that after two decades of democracy we are still living in shacks,” says Nkosikhona Swaartbooi from Reclaim The City adding that the elite in the government are to blame.
“When voted in power, the elite completely forget about us. Now all we are saying to the government is that this is the beginning. We need dignified homes to live in,” he says.
Elitsha caught up with several of the protestors, people from different townships.
“I lived as a backyarder for many years but we could not be accommodated any more by any landlords because we are many,” says Martins Cogill from Malawi Camp, Elsiesriver.
Cogill has been staying in Malawi Camp for 12 years. She wants the government to improve the living conditions in the informal settlement.
“We have no toilets, no electricity. Why can’t the government in the meantime provide us with these services while we wait for proper land to build our houses?” asks Cogill.
A disheartened Mzonke Mgudlwa who regrets his agreement to be relocated to Wolwerivier says, “The City is now making it a dumping area. When any community request for land they are relocated to this area.”
The community in Wolwerivier has numerous challenges. He says, “We have to travel to Tableview to access our grants. It cost R40 going and coming back to get that money. The City should do something to help us live decently.”
Wolwerivier, a settlement north of Cape Town is meant for people waiting for better housing but some residents have been there for years.
Among the marchers were some who were moved from District Six by the apartheid government.
“I was born and bred in District 6 but was forcibly removed to another land where we live as enemies. I remember living in District Six as one people. Sure that was the rainbow nation. Now we have lost trust in each other because we have been scattered all over,” says Gasat Livy.
Livy says government is making a mockery of democracy.
“It is surprising to note the City of Cape Town proposes to lease open pockets of land in Sea Point for sporting activities while we are living in crowded areas. There should be a shift in how the government treat its people,” he says.
Accepting the memorandum, Brett Herron from the City of Cape Town says, “It is true that apartheid still exists in Cape Town but we are working day and night to identify land for settlement.”
The memorandum was also received by officials from the Western Cape Premier’s office, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and of Human Settlements.