Backyarders still determined to fight for housing

The evictees say that they will take the fight with the land owner to the highest court. Photo by Mzi Velapi

It has been six days since the occupiers of Arcadia Place were evicted and living on the streets outside the building in Observatory.

A group of backyarders from different parts of Cape Town who were evicted from the Cape Peninsula Organisation for the Aged (CPOA) and now are living outside Arcadia Place in Observatory, have vowed not to move until they have explored all possibilities in the law. According to a report by GroundUp, they occupied the building after it was left vacant for renovations by the CPOA until their eviction last week Wednesday.

According to a press statement by the organisation, the occupiers launched an urgent appeal to suspend the evictions but that was dismissed and the original eviction was re-instated.

“We will go to the highest court in the land to make sure that we are heard,” said Barbara Vuza, the chairperson of Singabalapha (We belong here) – a name that the occupiers have given themselves. “We had about 200 people who were evicted and are still living on the streets outside the building,” said Vuza. The evictees, she stressed, are struggling with access to food and water as they are not allowed to even use gas stoves on the side of the road. “University of Cape Town students have been very helpful in assisting with food and water as part of their solidarity,” she said.

Speaking to Elitsha, some of the evictees said they used to pay between R500 and R800 rent in different townships in Cape Town.

Deborah Jacobs is a 32-year-old mother of three from Nyanga. Her children are in the care of a friend as they cannot live with her on the streets. Jacobs said that she used her children’s social grant money to pay a monthly rent of R800 which leaves her with nothing for other household needs.

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Songezo Sangqa (43) is originally from Engcobo in the Eastern Cape. He was a backyarder in Nyanga and was also paying rent of R800 a month. He has lost his job because he has to look after his belongings. He has two boys aged 8 and 15 years of age and are currently staying with their mother who is a domestic worker.

Another evictee, who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of being targeted by her abusive ex-husband who is also accused of raping their daughter, said that she was already living on the streets when she came to Arcadia Place. “I was running away from him and the fact that he raped our child and I laid a charge means that I am not going to be safe,” she said.

Women on the street live in fear of rape and never feel safe, as Barbara Vuza explained. In the six days they have been out on the streets, one of the occupiers has already lost a suitcase of clothes. “During the night you would hear people walking amongst us and that is scary,” said Vuza.

According to CPOA spokesperson, Sandri Gelderbloem the building should be demolished as it is unsafe to live in and this was communicated to the occupiers. Gelderbloem said that the land was subdivided between a private developer and the CPOA. “The land has been subdivided; half the site has been sold to a developer for an extension of the existing Pick ‘n Pay. On the remaining part of the land CPOA will rebuild Arcadia in order to accommodate the previous residents and to provide welfare retirement to additional needy, aged persons,” she said.

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