Stranded after shacks were demolished by Anti-Land Invasion unit

Occupants say that they paid R3,000 per plot to a street committee. Photo by Mzi Velapi

18 structures were demolished by the Anti-Land Invasion Unit of the City of Cape Town on open land adjacent to a ‘temporary’ settlement

Families who have been occupying a piece of land in Guava informal settlement in Fisantekraal near Durbanville have been sleeping outdoors since Friday. Having occupied the land alongside a temporary relocation area (TRA) for the past five months, on Friday the Anti-Land Invasion Unit came to demolish their shacks. “Before occupying the piece of land, we used to rent shacks in people’s yards for up to R800 a month but we cannot afford that anymore, so we decided to build shacks here,” said Nokwanda Mosotho.

“On Saturday, the women slept in a tent in one of the churches in the township but that was only for Saturday. We have been sleeping in the open field here,” said Mosotho pointing to where their homes used to be. “The situation is already affecting our children as they are getting sick and need to be taken to doctors.”

“You see those pigs roaming around? They are better than us because they have shelters. They sleep in pigsties and we sleep out in the open,” said Sihle Ham, observing a few pigs that were grazing in the near distance.

The TRA was established in 2013 to provide temporary housing for people displaced by a City of Cape Town electrification project. More than 200 families were moved to make space for the infrastructure.

Selling of plots by ‘street committees’

Mosotho says that they bought the plots from street committees, which payments they are now disputing and trying to get their money back. “We bought the plots for R3,000 from street committees,” she said. “The ones that were sold for R8,000 are still standing,” she said.

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The branch organiser of the South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO), Nehelitso Sholoko, alleged that one of the street committee members who sold the plots in fact works for the Department of Human Settlements. “We know them and we have been trying to engage them to pay back the money because the houses have been demolished,” he said.

Elitsha‘s attempts to get hold of the street committee were unsuccessful.

Lunga Sigijimi lost his job because he did not go to work for one day after the demolition of the shacks while he looked after his family’s belongings. “I was working for a construction company and when I went to work on Monday I was told that they no longer need me,” he said. His only source of income now is a child support grant.

Asked about plans to build houses and upgrade the TRA into a permanent settlement where people can live dignified lives, the City of Cape Town said that the reasons for the shortage of land for housing are geographic, not political.

“Although we absolutely understand the acute need for housing opportunities amid great demand and space constraints that we are faced with due to Cape Town’s terrain and geographical position as a peninsula, we must also consider the health and safety aspects that could affect our residents,” said Councillor Malusi Booi, the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements.

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