Siqalo and broader Mitchell’s Plain communities clash

The situation was calm on Thursday but police remain on high alert. Photo by Mzi Velapi

The situation was calm at Siqalo informal settlement on Thursday morning following a protest for land, housing and provision of better services by the City of Cape Town. The protest, which saw the barricading of Jakes Gerwel Drive with burning tyres and communal waste containers, resulted in a counter-protest from residents of Colorado Park. The protest has been suspended following a meeting between community groups in Mitchell’s Plain.

Jakes Gerwel Drive, Mitchells Plain, Cape Town, South Africa

The situation was calm at Siqalo informal settlement on Thursday morning following a protest for land, housing and provision of better services by the City of Cape Town. The protest, which saw the barricading of Jakes Gerwel Drive with burning tyres and communal waste containers, resulted in a counter-protest from the township of Colorado Park.

The counter-protest resulted in a clash and racial tensions between the predominantly ‘African’ informal settlement and nearby ‘Coloured’ areas that include Wildwood, Rondevlei and Colorado Park.  The tension between the the Colorado Park community and Siqalo informal settlement have been simmering since backyard dwellers and homeless people occupied the piece of land and started to build shacks.

“The people of Colorado claim that our shacks are devaluing their houses, but we also need a place to stay,” said Manelisi Mbalane who was part of the first group of people that moved into the area in 2012. Mbalane said that they barricaded the road because they want attention from the authorities. “The tensions were there from the beginning. This is the second major protest and they always attract counter-protests from Colorado residents. They see us as a nuisance that must be dealt with,” he said.

Mbalane accused the police of taking sides during a stand-0ff between the communities. “We were singing moving up and down the road and they started to gather at the top of the road and started pelting us with stones. The police were not stopping them but when we tried to retaliate they were quick with rubber bullets and teargas. Even when they were shooting at us with live ammunition later yesterday the police were only watching our movements and not theirs,” complained Mbalane.

Elitsha understands that messages calling on gangsters to come and deal the “Blacks” were circulated on Whatsapp groups of Wildwood, Rondevlei and Colorado and other Mitchell’s Plain communities. There are Facebook groups and individuals from the communities who have called for a “war”.

Another Siqalo resident, Lee Syster, claims that the people from the counter-protest threw stones at her even though she was with her children.”I felt that as a Coloured living in Siqalo I had to do something. The rich people on the other side of the road are not aware of the situation we live under here. But they were not interested in hearing that, men were throwing stones at me,” said the 40-year-old mother of two. When Elitsha met Syster, she was carrying two 25-litre containers of water from the communal tap to her house, a distance of about 100 metres.

The informal settlement is built on private land belonging to two owners, a fact the residents are well aware of. The landowners are according to the community Lyton Props Twelve CC and Ross Demolition. The community members that Elitsha spoke to claimed that Ross Demolition told their committee members that they are prepared to sell the land to the City. Ross Demolition owns the land to the west of the settlement and Lyton Props Twelve CC owns the land alongside Jakes Gerwel Drive.

“We are aware this is a privately owned land but the owner of the land is willing to sell or swop the land with the City of Cape Town. This issue has been in question for nearly two and half years. We are surprised why the City does not want to buy the land and bring in basic services to our community,” says Luvuyo Booi, a Siqalo community leader.

Acccording to Booi, Siqalo informal settlement is in a unique position. “I do not see reason for the delay of providing basic services in this area. The owner of the property has no problem. He is just waiting for the City to buy the land. This is unlike other informal settlements whereby the private owner fails to negotiate with the City,” he says.

Police search for protesters at the Siqalo informal settlement near Mitchell’s Plain after a protest for better services turned violent. Photo by Ashraf Hendricks/GroundUp

After the protest on Wednesday, the Siqalo residents committee had a meeting with the City of Cape Town.

“The City shows it does not want to serve our community. Nothing fruitful came out of the meeting,“says David Mpofu, another residents committee member, adding that he was not sure why the City called the  meeting.

Lack of services in Siqalo

The area has 13 taps servicing about 1,800 households. There is no electricity and sanitation is inadequate. According to the statement from the Mayor’s office there are “approximately 2,000 portable flush toilets, 100 chemical toilets.”

Zizipho Ncamba who has stayed in the area for a year was doing her washing near one of the communal taps. Next to the tap, there was rubbish dumped by residents who say that it is the only place to get rid of it.

“I am not happy washing my clothes at such a dirty place. Look, my twin children are busy playing in the dirt. I try to chase them away but you understand how kids are like.  The place is dirty and some of us have no pota-pota toilets and at night we use buckets for toilets then dump the dirt here. Flies and all sorts are the order of this place. But I cannot go anywhere,” says Ncamba.

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She is unemployed and she survives on her social grants for her children. The two children do not attend crèche.

David Mpofu has stayed in Siqalo for six years and finds life very difficult without basic services.

“There is no school here in Siqalo. My Grade one child has to go to Khanya Primary School in Samora Machel. I have to pay R220 per month for her transport. Where do I get that money? I am unemployed. I cannot let her walk to school everyday. It is not safe. If the City buys the land then it can provide a school in the area,” he says.

Children playing in the dirt near a tap in Siqalo. Photo by Bernard Chiguvare

Another resident of Siqalo who wanted to remain anonyomous told Elitsha that he has stayed in the area for the past two years. “Because there is no electricity you have to pay R5 at the Somali shop just to charge your phone or ask someone with a generator who will also charge you a fee. As someone who is unemployed and have been looking for work, it’s difficult for potential employees to get hold of you because sometimes you go for days with your phone off because you don’t have R5 to charge your phone,” said the 28-year-old man.

“Not all of us have pota-potas and those who don’t have to relieve themselves on top of the sand dunes. It’s not a pretty sight up there, there is human faeces everywhere,” butted in Siphelele Didiza a 27-year-old who told Elitsha that his home is  20-metres from the dunes.

An agreement to settle hostilities

A joint statement between organisations in the areas including the Muslim Judicial Council, the Housing Assembly, Siqalo community representatives and the Mitchell’s Plain United Residents Association states that after a meeting they held in Athlone on Thursday, they have noted that the lack of housing and services is “fundamentally the failure of the City.” The statement confirms that the “Siqalo residents and the broader Mitchell’s Plain communities are not enemies but rather have common grievances and it can be resolved if we work together along the lines of non-racism and non-violence.”

It further states that the Siqalo Community and the Mitchell’s Plain United Residents Association will meet to work out a joint programme of action.


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