People who erected shacks on Sanral-owned land in Lwandle, Cape Town, were enraged “backyarders” who were tired of unfulfilled service delivery promises, a city councillor said on Monday.
Residents of Wag ‘n Bietjie, an informal settlement near Somerset West, had to be relocated after their shacks were destroyed in a large-scale fire in 2007, African National Congress (ANC) councillor Mbuyiselo Matha told the Lwandle inquiry.
“In 2007, [then mayor Helen] Zille made promises to move people after fire gutted their houses. Some people were moved and some could not,” he said.
Those who were not moved to three pieces of land in Nomzamo and Asanda Village, as part of an agreement, were forced to rent backyard dwellings in the area.
The inquiry, set up by Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, was investigating the circumstances around the eviction of illegal shack-dwellers in Lwandle on June 2 and 3.
Matha said that at the start of the year representatives of the backyarders told him they were going to occupy the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) road reserve next to the N2 because they were tired of poor service delivery and ill-treatment by their landlords.
He warned them about the implications of moving onto the land but they did not listen. The first eviction took place at the start of February and the second in June.
“I, as the ward councillor, was not informed of the evictions [beforehand].”
He said he was not invited to meetings with Sanral, city officials or the police before the evictions.
He first found out about the eviction on June 2 when he got a phone call from a resident that morning that police were carrying in barbed wire and firing teargas.
He asked the police official in charge on the scene to look for an amicable solution, but this was turned down.
“He could not provide me with the court order. Instead he gave people 10 minutes to disperse. People were fired with teargas and some people were assaulted, kicked, including a nine-months-pregnant woman.”
Matha said Ses’Khona People’s Rights Movement leader Andile Lili got a copy of the order and found it was a draft court order from the February eviction.
“They stopped the operation and went away.”
Commission head advocate Denzil Potgieter said there was a dispute as to how many families and shacks were affected by the June eviction.
The Sheriff of the High Court recorded some 230 demolished structures while residents claimed 849 structures were destroyed.
He asked Matha whether he had figures of his own.
Matha replied that he was not invited to count the shacks being demolished and relied on the community’s figure because they had records of who had lived on the land.
The commission has until August 5 to conclude the inquiry. SAPA