Where will the children play? Masiphumelele youths disrupt housing project

They say the field on which the temporary houses are being built is the only one they can use

By Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

11 March 2021

Police protecting contractors on a field in Masiphumelele after a group tried to disrupt the installation of TRAs. They are upset that the City of Cape Town did not consult them before using the only sports field in the area for housing. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

“Sport is the only thing that keeps most young people in this area out of trouble,” says Masiphumelele resident Sibulele Mpahlwa.

He was speaking in defence of a group of young people from the area who disrupted the installation of temporary relocation area (TRA) units on a sportsfield on Wednesday. The units are meant to house people whose shacks burnt down in December last year.

Residents say the sportsfield is the only one in the area and is used by a number of local clubs who play netball, soccer, touch rugby, and volleyball.

The group claim that the City of Cape Town did not consult with the community before moving the TRA units onto the field. Before the disruption, at least 13 structures had already been installed.

The City has since applied for a court interdict to prevent any further disruptions.

But Mpahlwa said people were upset because it is unclear how long the TRA will be there.

“This field is not only used by the community, but schools in the area host tournaments here too. If the City consulted with us, it would know that we are against using this field for the TRA,” said Mpahlwa.

Aphiwe Tshetsha, who frequently plays soccer on the field, said the City had also used two other sportfields for housing. “We had a sports field years ago. Then people who were living on wetland were moved there. We then moved to Petsu and soon we were moved for a housing development. Now they want to move us again. We are not going to allow that,” said Tshetsha.

Mayco Member for Human Settlements, Malusi Booi, said about 500 people are expected to be housed at the site.

He said the City tried to find an alternative solution to make everyone happy. He said the community informally used the field but were not part of a registered club or association allowed to use the field.

Booi said the City would only be using the field temporarily to house desperate families who lost everything in the fire.

“The beneficiaries will be prioritised to receive permanent housing in the rebuild plan to enable them to move off the sportsfield as fast as possible. The field will be rehabilitated for sporting use again,” said Booi.

“So one must weigh up is football or lives more important?” he asked.