19 June 2020
About 100 families have started erecting homes on a vacant plot in Khayelitsha, Uitenhage, on Thursday.
The new occupation situated next to 4th Avenue has been named Covid Village. Residents in the area said they had cleared litter and thick bush to build their shacks.
Brothers Phumelelo and Phumzile November built two shacks for themselves and charged a female neighbour to set up her one-room shack. The brothers are unemployed
“At last we will have what we call a roof over our heads during and after Covid-19,” said Phumzile.
Another land occupier, Nomonde Netnou, said she was building a house for herself and two children aged 13 and 16. She is unemployed and often had to use her children’s grant to pay R400 in rent.
“I have been a backyard dweller since 2007 also using my father’s pension money for rent. In Covid Village renting will be no more … I will finally have my own place,” she said.
Netnou said that the price of building materials had also increased with short planks costing R10 and a metre long zinc sheet R400.
“People have ridiculously increased prices knowing that we are desperate. Everything is expensive whilst you have to hire someone to build you a shack as well and builders charge at least R300 for a single shack room,” she said.
Community leader Vusumzi Ncula said that many of the people occupying the land were doing so to “practice social distancing in overcrowded” households.
“We met as residents of ward 42 and in that meeting two names were suggested for this new place: the 4th Avenue Village and Covid Village. Most people [voted for] Covid Village because people said it was occupied during a crisis.”
Ncula said that for over eight years the municipality has been telling them that the land is earmarked for a high school.
“We saw a sea of litter on this land instead of a school, so we decided to occupy without permission. Five years ago, we were also chased away from this land by law enforcement officers. We are back again because we see they will never keep the promise of building a school,” he said.
Ward 42 Councillor Phakamisa Mfama said residents had no right to stay there without services. “I told them I have no land and I couldn’t tell them yes or no. I don’t know of any school that would be built on that land,” he said.
Municipal spokesperson Mamela Ndamase said the City was aware of the occupation. “Residents took advantage of the Covid-19 lockdown as some metro law enforcers were not at work. We condemn the crime and urge our residents to refrain from land invasion as it disrupts developments in the City.”
Ndamase said the City was still considering whether to formalise the settlement or to follow legal processes for removal of the shacks.