Delft backyard dwellers demand housing

Backyarders picketing outside of the civic centre on Wednesday. All photos by Mzi Velapi

Eindhoven backyarders say that they will not allow the housing project to continue if they are not going to benefit.

A group of backyarders from Delft picketed outside the civic centre in Cape Town calling for an end to what they referred to as “empty promises” by the City of Cape Town. According to one of the community leaders, Patricia Michaels, they have been promised houses by the current and two previous councillors on two plots of land in the Eindhoven area. “The houses were supposed to be built two years ago already but we were told that the construction company that was supposed to build the house had its equipment stolen,” she said. After some time, the community took the matter into its own hands and started to occupy the land and put up shacks. “The Law Enforcement Unit were quick to come and break down the houses and we were interdicted by the City of Cape Town. The case is in High Court now,” said Michaels.

The community handed their demands to Xolani Joja who was representing Malusi Booi, the Member of the Mayoral Committee for Human Settlement. The community wants an urgent meeting with the mayor, the restoration of the backyarders onto the land, the return of goods that were taken by the Law Enforcement Unit to the backyarders (or an equivalent monetary amount) and the withdrawal by the City of Cape Town of the interdict against the backyarders. According to a statement by Booi, the City intends to build 202 housing units in Eindhoven later this year.

According to Michaels they were told that only 10% of backyarders will benefit from the housing project. “That is such a small number; if that is what they intend to do we will make sure that the construction does not go ahead,” she said. However, Booi said that “beneficiaries are selected in accordance with the City’s housing database and the City’s housing allocation policy.”

Living conditions of backyard dwellers

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We met 28-year-old Joycelyn Boyce as she was part of the group that was preparing for the picket. Boyce has been unemployed for over a year. “I stay with my brother and his 3 friends but at night I sleep at the front section of the shack that does not have a roof. I instead use two wooden roof sheets to do a makeshift roof,” she said, indicating two wooden boards and ropes that were hanging where the rafters are supposed to be and a sponge mattress that she sleeps on.

Joycelyn Boyce standing next to where she sleeps at night.

Attached to the house is another shack with a few wooden sheets and a plastic sheet on top. We found 52-year-old Christian Tait sitting on his bed. Tait gets a disability grant and he pay R600 for a small space that only fits his single bed. The shack does not have windows. “When it rains I have to organise buckets to make sure that the place doesn’t get wet,” he said. “I was part of the community that put up shacks in that piece of land because I am tired of paying rent”, said Tait.

Christian Tait is one of the backyarders that grew tired of waiting for a house and occupied land in Eindhoven in March this year.

The City of Cape Town denies that there have been delays in the housing project. Instead the City says that the project has been implemented in phases and they hope to start “in mid-2019 if all goes according to plan,” said Booi.

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