Khayelitsha streets still littered with debris a week after protest

Remnants of last week's protest lines the streets of Khayelitsha. Photo by Lilita Gcwabe

Two Khayelitsha based organisations accuse the City of Cape Town of discrimination in the way it provides services.

The Social Justice Coalition says that the City of Cape Town is discriminating against residents of Khayelitsha as the City has not cleaned the streets and removed the debris following a protest by land occupiers last week Tuesday. Concrete stumps, wire from burnt tyres and refuse bags still lie on and alongside major intersections where residents of the newly occupied settlements in Khayelitsha and later in Delft, protested for basic services. Labelled the #Totalshutdown, the protesters blocked the N2 and all the exit roads of Western Cape’s largest township.

Speaking on behalf of the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) Nkosikhona Swartbooi, the Head of Advocacy and Campaigns, said that the City is discriminating against township residents by not removing the rubbish and cleaning the streets as it did in other parts of the City that had seen similar protest actions.

“It is disappointing that we do not see the same response as in other areas when people burn tyres. There will be people or departments deployed to go and clean to make sure that the roads are usable again in areas such as Rondebosch where the student protest took place and it was kind of similar to what we saw last week in Khayelitsha,” said Swartbooi.

In some intersections it looks like the protest was yesterday because the debris has not been removed. Photo by Lilita Gcwabe

The allegations of discrimination were also echoed by the Khayelitsha Development Forum (KDF) which went a step further by saying that the City of Cape Town racially discriminates against the townships. “We are disappointed in the way the City has responded and the racial discrimination that they continue to deal and provide services to the residents. If the protesters are guilty it does not make sense to generalise and paint everyone with the same brush. You cannot be a government that governs with emotion. It like they are saying that the sins of the father will be visited upon the sons,” said the KDF Chairperson, Ndithini Tyhido.

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Both the Social Justice Coalition and the Khayelitsha Development Forum warned about those who ‘hijack’ the genuine struggle for basic needs and housing: “We have warned against the criminal elements who would want to hijack the struggle for their own means and we have condemned the destruction of existing municipal amenities by the protesters,” Tyhido said.

Swartbooi also sought to address the issue of violence marring the protests: “Khayelitsha, Deflt, Nyanga and Gugulethu were peaceful but there were criminal elements who targeted and stoned taxis and private cars… We as the organisation condemn that.”

The City of Cape Town did not respond to questions about the removal of the debris sent to them by Elitsha on Friday. Their response will be added, if and when they do.

Motorists and pedestrians negotiating their way around the rubbish left behind after the protest that took place last week. Video by Sindile Gulwa

The City did, however, issue a media statement late on Tuesday last week saying that it will not be able to cater for the settlements as it does not have a budget for it. The statement condemns the occupations and calls them ‘unlawful’.

“Last year, Cape Town experienced an unprecedented increase in especially large-scale, orchestrated unlawful land occupations during the Covid-19 national lockdown, many driven by criminal syndicates or so-called ‘shack farmers’. Assessments of all new settlements are under way, however, it is completely unreasonable to demand immediate services, especially in areas where human settlements were never meant to be formed, such as in nature reserves,” reads the statement.

Swartbooi said that the City should stop criminalising those who have occupied vacant land because some of them were running away from abusive partners while some were being evicted by landlords after losing their jobs to the lockdown.

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Cape Town is then an occupation that started in 1652

Nkosikona Swartbooi

“The City of Cape Town continues to release statements that they are not going to provide services to these newly established communities because they do not agree with how these communities came into being and criminalises them, calling them land grabbers, people who are breaking the law and are blocking progress in Khayelitsha. If we are to say that anyone who occupies a piece of land because of a need that they have is a land grabber, then Cape Town is a land grabbed city. Cape Town is then an occupation that started in 1652,” said Swartbooi.

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