Occupiers of church land demand water and sanitation

City says it cannot provide services on Moravian land in Pella

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Photo of a woman
Resident Zelmer Davids enjoys a cup of coffee at the Pella informal settlement. She says she “feels free at last”. Photo: Peter Luhanga/WCN

About 40 families have erected shacks on land owned by the Moravian Church in Pella, Atlantis, and they want the City of Cape Town to provide basic services such as water and toilets.

The former backyarders moved onto the land at the beginning of February, escaping their overcrowded family homes.

The City’s Anti Land Invasion Unit, backed by the law enforcement, demolished their shacks soon after the land occupation began.

Several land occupiers opened cases of assault against law enforcement officials. They allege being pepper sprayed and beaten. Captain Cyril Dicks at the Atlantis police station confirmed a case had been opened.

Residents rebuilt immediately after the demolition.

Sidney Arends, who has a one-roomed shack, which he shares with his wife and two children, aged one and 13, says authorities have not returned to demolish any shacks.

“The land was vacant – so we can stay here mos. We feel alright here. I got my open space and my own shack. The only problem is water and toilets.”

He says residents had to use the bushes as a toilet. “We need the City to provide us basic services.” 

Dillion Petersen, 23, says he is excited to leave his mother’s overcrowded home and live on his own. “We are not going anywhere. We are here to stay,” says Petersen.

Zelmer Davids, a mother of two children, says she felt “free at last” after erecting her own home on the church land. She echoed the call for basic service provision.

The City’s Mayco Member for Informal Settlements, Water, Waste Services and Energy, Xanthea Limberg, says the City notifies private landowners to take the necessary steps to stop or prevent a land occupation.

Limberg says the situation in Pella is somewhat different, because the church had allowed people to erect their shacks and had decided not to prevent the land occupation.

“The moment the landowner allows people to occupy their land, they take responsibility for those people, hence our stance that the landowner is now also responsible for the services,” says Limberg.

Limberg says the City is bound by the Municipal Finance Management Act and cannot provide services at Pella.

The president of the Moravian Church in South Africa, Reverend Godfrey Cunningham, refused to discuss the matter, directing all questions to attorneys Von Lieres, Cooper, Barlow and Hangone.

Attorney Shaun Hangone said: “There is no comment.”

Photo of two men
Sidney Arends and his neighbour Dillion Petersen are happy to have moved out of their overcrowded family homes. The Pella shacks can be seen behind them. Photo: Peter Luhanga/WCN

West Cape News for GroundUp 

TOPICS:  Housing Land

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