“We won’t move” – Khayelitsha land occupiers defy eviction order

New Brighton Informal Settlement was established in 2020 during the Covid-19 lockdown. Photo by Mzi Velapi

The residents of an informal settlement in Khayelitsha are refusing to vacate the land for the building of a private hospital.

Community members from New Brighton informal settlement near Khayelitsha Mall have vowed not to move out of the area to make way for the building of a private hospital.

The informal settlement, now home to over 200 families, was established during the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020 when thousands of backyard dwellers occupied vacant land in Cape Town as the economic impact of the lockdown resulted in job losses and reduced working hours. The residents of this informal settlement, tucked between Ekuphumleni and Khayelitsha Mall, have been served with an eviction notice and relocation letter by the Khayelitsha Development Forum (KDF) and Khayelitsha Community Trust (KCT).

The letter from Maguga Attorneys, which Elitsha has seen, is dated 24 May and gives the residents seven days to vacate the land. The letter states that the residents of New Brighton would be accommodated at Level 2 informal settlement. The eviction notice of 7 days was served on the 2nd of June, with relocation set to begin on the 8th of June.

Last week, GroundUp reported that the residents of New Brighton, led by Intlungu Yase Matyotyombeni, marched to the ward councillor’s office to register their objection to the relocation notice and question the legitimacy of the notice since it was not from a court.

“People have invested time and money into these occupations, and some even make a livelihood here. If they are removed they will also lose their livelihoods,” said Mabhelandile Twani, deputy chair of Intlungu Yase Matyotyombeni social movement. “KDF and KTC did not want to meet with informal settlement [dwellers] when we first settled here. They represent their own interests and not those of the people,” added Twani.

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Residents from two informal settlements in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, protest outside their ward councillor’s office on Thursday last week. They want the councillor to stop their relocation. Photo: Vincent Lali/GroundUp

Local councillor promises of new land broken

Mthwalo “Rider” Mkutswana, ward 97 councillor, is said to have paid the community a visit in 2022 and spoke about the pending relocation.

“The councillor arrived last year and told the community that the land we currently occupy has been bought by private developers and we will be moved to a place with infrastructure,” said Sandiswa Bhushula, a New Brighton resident. “This hospital won’t even benefit us as we do not have the qualifications to be nurses or doctors and even security companies will outsource their workers. We won’t move out of this area,” she added.

Community members agreed to move, given that they were promised an alternative place with proper infrastructure such as streets, toilets and running water. However, the community has since learned that the land they are to be moved to is by Khayelitsha swimming pool, and is uninhabitable.

On Thursday morning, about 100 people marched to the ward councillor’s office to demand that he intervene in the matter. A letter in response to the notice to vacate states that “KTC has no ownership of the land (Erf number 18370)”.

Khayelitsha Development Forum responds

Speaking to Elitsha, Ndithini Tyhido, the KDF chairperson, said the land belongs to KDF.

“The land belongs to the Khayelitsha Community Trust which is responsible for the development of the Khayelitsha Central Business District,” said Tyhido. He believes that the building of a private hospital will “alleviate the burden on public healthcare” as community members with medical aid or who can afford private healthcare will make use of it, thus opening more beds at Khayelitsha District Hospital.

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“In 2003 the development of [Khayelitsha] CBD consisted of various developments including Khayelitsha Mall and Khayelitsha District Hospital that now exist. In the plan a private hospital was also included. However, due to Covid-19 we had to halt those proceedings,” said Tyhido, adding that they also did not want to remove the dwellers at such a time.

According to the City of Cape Town, the land where the Khayelitsha CBD now stands was handed over to KCT in August 2022. “The land earmarked for the extension of the Khayelitsha Mall as a mixed-use site will include affordable housing opportunities for residents as well as retail and commercial opportunities for local businesses,” said the city. They added that the site is owned by the KCT “and they must be approached for their comment”.

The KDF and the KCT seek to represent the community of Khayelitsha, according to Tyhido, and they “will not be hoodwinked by mischievous peddlers whose intention is nothing but to sow divisions between and amongst the people of Khayelitsha”.

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