The fate of a group of evicted backyard dwellers illegally occupying land in District Six is uncertain. It comes as the City of Cape Town was granted an interdict against the demonstrators, who are demanding housing.
Several families from across Cape Town set up camp on the land earmarked for restitution about two months ago, in a bid to get government to address their housing needs. The group hosted two demonstrations in December and March, citing corruption concerns pertaining to the City’s housing waiting list. Members come from areas including Hanover Park, Manenberg, Lotus River, Grassy Park and Mitchells Plain.
Listen to what demonstrators told VOC news last month.
At the time, City spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo told VOC news that meetings were held where it was decided that Western Cape government would take the lead on the matter.
“This is an unlawful occupation of land which is illegal. The housing need is acute, trying to jump the que in this manner is not acceptable. The City and Mayco member for Human Settlements has met with the group, the group asked for services.”
“Numerous newly established communities are demanding services, but currently the City is unable to cater for these unplanned settlements as existing recognized informal settlements are prioritized, on the basis of available resources which are not limitless. The Western Cape government has also met with the group, at the meeting it was agreed that the Western Cape government would take lead on this matter,” said Tyhalibongo.
The provincial Department of Human Settlements’ Muneera Allie however disputed saying it is national governments responsibility:
“We confirm that the matter is not being attended to by the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements. The Department also does not own the particular piece of land. The land in question forms part of the greater District Six matter. This is being attended to by the National Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, as well as the City of Cape Town,” wrote Allie, in response to VOC.
The City of Cape Town was on Monday granted an interdict which, among other things, gives law enforcement the right to remove the group. In a statement, the City expressed concern that the illegal occupation of the land will impact an ongoing restitution process for those who were forcibly removed during apartheid.
Founder of the Social liberals for Backyard Dwellers (SLB) movement Shareefa Nolan told VOC on Tuesday that officials have failed to adequately provide answers or solutions to Capetonians who’ve been on the housing waiting list for decades:
“Those who were supposed to get houses didn’t get houses because of the corruption. Most of these houses are allocated to friends and family and Eastern Cape people. They are very well aware because we’ve been fighting for three years. We’ve had meetings but there’s no answers, they never know anything what is happening with the (housing) projects.”
According to the City’s mayco member for Human Settlements Malusi Booi; he fulfilled his commitment made during a meeting on Freedom Day, to bring provincial government on board. He said that the demand for housing outweighs the City’s resources and the group should go back to where they came from.
“We do sympathise with people who are on our database for quite some time, we understand they applied. But what we cannot permit is for people to unlawfully occupy land. There are people who have been waiting for many years, who were removed under the land act. We can’t now want to destabilize that community,” said Booi.
“What we’re asking is that they go back to where they are coming from before they occupied that land. I’ve even indicated to them they must submit the list (of demands) to the province, of which is spearheading this particular process.”
Booi claimed that province outlined a plan to accommodate backyarders from different areas on 80 hectare plot of land next to Mitchells Plain called “The Wedge”, which is currently under zoning.
On the way forward, Nolan said that news of the interdict went viral without the group being issued with any form of communication.
“It doesn’t give us any plan of action, and this interdict isn’t recognized because its not an eviction order. Its unlawful, it went on social media when they didn’t deliver any order to us. (Booi) is so arrogant. We had a meeting with him, he spoke to us like we are dogs. They never provide us with any answers. They are clueless, they need to step down,” said Nolan.
By 10.30am on Tuesday morning, the City read out the interdict to the group, who refused to sign it. Nolan said SLB will be opposing the interdict.
Despite numerous requests, the City failed to provide further clarity regarding the process of housing allocation, plans to address inadequate housing opportunities or current status of housing projects.
Listen to the full interview here.