City of Cape Town accused of dividing the community

A piece of land where Vrygrond community members have from time to time attempted to build shacks. Photo by Bernard Chiguvare

A meeting between leadership of the Vrygrond community and the City of Cape Town, after several stand-offs between law enforcement officers and backyarders who have attempted to occupy vacant land, has not taken place even though a date was set.

Vrygrond, Cape Town, South Africa

Vrygrond community leaders feel the mayor’s office is dividing the Vrygrond community after it cancelled  a meeting that was supposed to be held on Tuesday in Vrygrond.

The meeting was called by the mayor’s office to resolve land invasions undertaken by the community. On several occasions the Vrygrond backyarders built shacks on open land next to the dumping site in Vrgrond but the Red Ants were sent by the City to destroy the structures leading to violent protest.

“The mayor would like Vrygrond community to fight with its leadership. How come they just cancelled the meeting without notifying the leadership? They are saying their diaries cannot accommodate us. This is sad. The mayor called this meeting and this is why we managed to calm the community on Monday,” says Michael Khumalo, one of the community leaders.

He feels there is no commitment from the City to resolve the land issue. Khumalo urged other community leaders to  call the mayor’s office as he was engaged in other business.

But the Mayor’s office blamed the Vrygrond leadership for delaying confirmation of the meeting time.

“There was a delay from Vrygrond leadership in confirming the time for the meeting. Another engagement which the mayor had at the same time was confirmed, meaning the Vrygrond meeting fell away,” says Xolani Koyana, the mayor ‘s spokesperson, adding that the Vrygrond leadership was informed of the need to reschedule  the meeting.

Koyana says the mayor’s office is currently engaging with the leadership to come up with an alternative date, affirming that it is committed to resolving issues as long the community leaders put an end to the violence.

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The Vrygrond backyarders say they can no longer afford paying rent every month as most of them are unemployed with many depending on child grants.

“Mayor Patricia de Lille and officials conducted a site visit this month to present three pieces of land that could be developed for the benefit of the people of Vrygrond but this proposal was rejected by the community during the site visit,” says Koyana.

Elitsha spoke to some backyarders about their living conditions.

“I stayed in Westlake renting for two years then moved to Overcome Heights where I was looking after someone’s place. It’s a one roomed shack. There is no privacy.  The whole family of five sleep in one room,” says a backyarder preferring to be called by his first name, Fundile.

He does odd jobs in order to provide food for his family. They have twice attempted to build a home on the vacant land for the City to demolish the structures.

Fundile says he can no longer go back to Overcome Heights because the owner of the shack has returned. He is looking forward to getting a home of his own. Currently, his family is staying with friends.

Another backyarder, Masixole Mado, who had been staying in a shack that he built on the open land next to the dumping site says, “I have nowhere to stay. The City demolished my shack two weeks ago. I was already staying in that structure. I cannot afford paying R450 rent every month.”

He claims the Red Ants took all his belongings that he had already put in the new structure. Mado is married and has one child. His wife works as a domestic worker.

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He says if the City continues destroying their shacks then they will have to stay under bridges as they can no longer afford monthly rentals.

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About Bernard Chiguvare 56 Articles
Originally from Zimbabwe and since 2014 I been contributing to different publications in South Africa. My area of focus as a reporter is on the rights of vulnerable communities and foreign nationals in any country.