Shack dwellers flee violent persecution

Thugs targeted houses that are on the edge of the informal settlement. All photos by Sindile Gulwa

Many residents of Siyakhana have fled their homes for fear of their lives. On Wednesday night, several homes were petrol bombed by ‘maphara’.

Residents of Siyakhana informal settlement claim that Mandela Park residents are intensifying a campaign of violence against them as some of them became victims of “petrol-bomb” wielding maphara (drugged thugs) this week. Mzikayise Kebe, a resident of Siyakhana told Elitsha that thugs threw two petrol bombs at his house on Wednesday night. Last month, Elitsha reported that tensions have been heightened over who should benefit from a housing project in the area. In September, GroundUp reported that tensions between Mandela Park Backyarders and people living in the nearby informal settlements of Siyakhana and Siyahlala had turned violent when shack dwellers were allegedly attacked and their shacks burned and demolished in an attempt to clear the land for construction.

“It was around 21h00 and we just came out of loadshedding then. I was standing outside with a friend and a phara had a bag and he took out what looked like a petrol bomb and he waved it towards us and we ducked. He said we should move out of the area because it is Mahama project land. He then proceeded to throw two petrol bombs into my house,” Kebe said.

Inside Kebe’s house where the “petrol bomb” was thrown.

Another resident whose house, just like Kebe’s, is on the edge of the informal settlement, said that they threw petrol bombs inside her house where she was with her two children. “It was around 01h00 in the morning when they threw the petrol bomb inside my house while my children were sleeping,” said Nondzondelelo Javu.

A leader of Mandela Park Backyarders, Khaya Xintolo, denied the allegations that the community hires thugs to terrorise the informal settlement residents. “It is not true that the Mandela Park community rents thugs. All the decisions on what to do next are taken in a public meeting. Before we speak to them we sit and discuss the issues in an open public meeting. The accusation that we rent thugs is not true,” said Xintolo.

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The Harare police station confirmed that a case of attempted arson was opened at the police station and no arrests have been made.

Lost trust in Harare police

The Mandela Park Backyarders and leaders of the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) in the area are adamant that the housing project is meant to benefit residents of Mandela Park in the main. “The Mahama [Mandela Park, Harare and Makhaza] project comes a long way. As the word suggests. it is meant to benefit residents of the three townships and now the construction is meant to happen in Mandela Park, so it is meant to benefit residents of Mandela Park. We explained this to them when they moved in. We said that we are willing to include 10% of them to be part of the beneficiaries and that they were going to be verified but they refused the offer,” said Xintolo.

The Siyakhana residents say that they have been under attack by the Mandela Park residents since June this year. “This is the third attack on me and my house now and the police do not respond to us. We had to block the road with burning tyres on Wednesday for the police to come out and come protect us. The Harare police van that came earlier told us that they do not have enough manpower to protect and chase the thugs. We had to block the road with burning tyres to get the attention of the POP [Public Order Policing] unit,” said Kebe.

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Siyakhana residents say that only 44 structures are still occupied in the informal settlement as residents have fled for fear of their lives.

“The Harare police are biased against us. We had to get leaders of the EFF to intervene and get the attention of the provincial police commissioner and it is then that we learnt that all of our cases were withdrawn without us being informed. Whenever we call them when we get attacked, they do not come,” said Ntomboxolo Fadane. “We couldn’t sleep last night and most of us didn’t go to work because we were too tired from staying up. We know they will come back to attack again.”

“There were 152 structures on this land.
Now it is only 44.”

“We used to be good neighbours. They would come drink here at the tavern but things changed drastically. Now, the residents of Mandela Park attack everyone here. Some people have left the area for fear of their lives,” said Vuyokazi Malayi. “There were 152 structures on this land and now it is only 44. People have left because of the violence that is directed at us,” said Fadane.

The City of Cape Town said that its officials visited the Siyakhana informal settlement and met with residents and community leaders. There has been ongoing negotiations to move the residents of the informal settlement to make way for the construction of the infill housing project.

“The city can confirm that a survey was carried out by the informal settlements department recently, and we are looking into all feasible options to assist the community,” said the City of Cape Town. According to the city, the project is meant to benefit qualifying beneficiaries on the housing list.

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