Klipheuwel residents insist destroyed shacks were occupied

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Photo of two people rebuilding their shack
Wilheminah Hansen and Koos Potberg from Klipheuwel standing in front of the shack they are rebuilding. Photo: Bernard Chiguvare

City of Cape Town law enforcement destroyed seven shacks, claiming they were unoccupied, but residents, who have already started rebuilding, told GroundUp this was not true.

Councillor Benedicta van Minnen, mayoral committee member for Human Settlements, said seven “unoccupied and illegally erected structures” had been removed.

She said the City’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit had inspected the land on Monday after a complaint from the public that “new illegal structures” were being erected.

“On inspection, new illegal structures were found to be under construction”.

“The structures were unoccupied,” she said.

Setjhaba Kolanchu, secretary of the Klipheuwel Development Forum, said the Law Enforcement Services had started destroying the shacks at about 8am on Tuesday. There were eight law enforcement agencies vehicles and one police van, he said.

“They did not entertain any questions. One of them shouted that the structures were illegal.”

Hammers and crowbars were used to bring down all seven shacks in less than an hour, he said. Not all the demolished shacks were on the edge of the settlement.

Koos Potberg says he has been living in his shack for a year. He and his partner, Wilheminah Hansen, were at work when the shack was destroyed.

When they came home, they found some of their goods missing, including a radio, shoes, foodstuff and R200 in cash. They had to sleep at a friend’s house.

When GroundUp visited the area on Wednesday, several residents, including Potberg and Hansen, were rebuilding their shacks and had to miss work.

“I have nowhere to stay. The only option is to rebuild this shack,” said Potberg.

Another resident, Tarick Khan, said she had been present when law enforcement destroyed her shack.

“They just came to our shack and started pulling it down. I tried to make them understand my situation but all was in vain.”

“In almost five minutes they brought our structure down. We managed to take a few of our belongings to our neighbours,” she said.

Khan used to live and work at a nearby farm, Mikpunt, and moved to Klipheuwel when she lost her job.

Rebuilding her shack on Wednesday, she said she had no money to rent a room elsewhere.

Kolanchu said the Klipheuwel Development Forum had tried to engage with the City but without success.

“If they really care, as they claim, they should have found a lasting solution for our community.

“The City is provoking the Klipheuwel community by destroying the shacks without prior warning. This is a clear indication that the City doesn’t care about us.”

Van Minnen said residents were aware that the shacks were illegal and would be removed. She said the spread of informal settlements “through the illegal erection of structures” had “a devastating effect on sustainability, safety and service provision”.

“In this particular case, it is to the detriment of the existing residents on that land. The more structures that are erected illegally, the more it negatively affects the space and services that the existing residents have at their disposal.”

Asked what she meant by “unoccupied”, she said the shacks had been erected but no-one was occupying them.

Photo of demolished shacks
Seven shacks were demolished in Klipheuwel by City law enforcement. Photo: Bernard Chiguvare
TOPICS:  Housing

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