Hundreds of shacks demolished in Khayelitsha

Land occupiers say they will rebuild until City finds solution

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Photo of a shack on open land
The City of Cape Town Anti-land Invasion Unit demolished hundreds of shacks in Khayelitsha. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

Land occupiers in Monwabisi Park, Khayelitsha, were left homeless after the Anti-land Invasion Unit (ALIU) demolished shacks on the weekend. Some of the occupiers said they had been living on the land for about three months prior to the demolition.

Khayelitsha residents, mostly backyarders who cannot afford the rent, have been erecting shacks on vacant land in the area for the past few weeks. (See Clashes in Khayelitsha following land occupation.)

According to a statement released by the City of Cape Town on 2 September: “A large number of structures were unlawfully erected on the site, which is situated between Swartklip, Oscar Mpetha Drive and Baden Powell Drive. 474 unoccupied structures were demolished and 43 occupied structures were identified, and eviction will be effected via the legal process.” In a statement the following day the City said it had demolished a further 189 “illegally erected structures”.

Victoria Mapompo, a 55-year-old mother of five, said she had to move from someone’s backyard because she could no longer afford the rent. When asked why her shack had not been demolished with the others, she said she told the ALIU that she had five children and she did not have another place to go. “They left me and said they will come back tomorrow to demolish my shack,” said Mapompo. Her shack, and a few others that were left standing, had the word “remove” spray-painted on them.

A shack with “remove” spray-painted on it by the City’s Anti-land Invasion Unit. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

Sizeka Komani, a 34-year-old mother of two, was less fortunate. She received a phone call at work from her 15-year-old daughter on Saturday saying that their shack was minutes away from being demolished. She rushed home to remove her furniture after which the ALIU demolished it.

“I had to ask my neighbour if we could stay with them but we don’t know when they [ALIU] will demolish her shack as well,” said Komani. She said this will be the third time she has had to rebuild her shack.

GroundUp asked a group of occupiers whether they would continue rebuilding after the demolition on Monday. Banele Majavu said, “We don’t have anywhere else to go. We have no choice but to rebuild.”

The group said that the City had not made an effort to talk to the community and develop a solution. “We don’t want to fight. We just want our basic human rights,” said Majavu.

Social Justice Coalition Chairperson Wiseman Mpepo said it strongly condemned what the City is doing. “We are an organisation fighting for justice and it is sad to see that 23 years into our democracy our people are still landless and injustices like these still continue,” said Mpepo.

City comment after publication

Mayoral Committee for Area East Councillor Anda Ntsodo said City officials had faced violent opposition at the land occupation. Nstodo called “for an end to all the land invasions occurring in Khayelitsha”.

“Although we empathise with the plight of our residents, we simply cannot allow the invasion of land. Invaded land becomes a fire-, flood- and health-risk and it makes the provision of basic and emergency services almost impossible in some cases,” said Ntsodo.

Asked if the City will be providing the occupants with alternative housing, Ntsodo said, “No, because this is not an eviction. It is a counter-spoliation [the act of taking property by violent means] operation … As with all pieces of land, the housing needs across the metro are considered. The City follows a systematic approach in an effort to ensure fairness and to prevent queue jumping.”

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TOPICS:  Housing Land

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