Mfuleni’s evicted land occupiers squat in makeshift communal shacks
“The shack becomes jam-packed in the evening”
Dozens of residents evicted several times from a land occupation in Extension Six, Mfuleni, are now homeless. They are living in several makeshift communal shacks on Nqubelani Street.
“The shack is so dirty and dusty you can’t even find space where you can put food,” said Bongiswa Vakele, who has been staying in the shack with her seven-year-old son together with other homeless residents for almost a month.
“The shack becomes jam-packed in the evening when residents return from their workplaces and from job hunting. We sleep on the sandy floor, fully dressed,” she said.
Women share the shack with men. To keep warm, they make a fire inside and another outside the shack. Many of the men stay outside at the fire all night.
Vakele is homeless because after her shack was demolished for the second time and her building materials taken away by the City of Cape Town’s Anti-land Invasion Unit, her landlord would not allow her to return to his backyard.
Despite her situation, she is determined to see that her son keeps going to school. “I wake up around 4am, bathe my son, dress him outside and help him cross the street before he heads for school,” she said. “We have no money to buy food. When we are hungry, we ask residents who stay close by to give us food.”
For Zisanda Fiphaza, the cold, dirty, makeshift shack was no place for her six-year-old son to live. “I took my son to his father in Bardale. He is too young to live under these conditions,” she said.
Fiphaza joined the land occupation after her landlord turned her out. She hadn’t been able to pay him rent for seven months.
“I’m hungry. Sometimes friends give me food. I get exposed to cold at night because I have no blankets,” said Fiphaza. “We don’t feel safe here.”
Sibongile Loliwe used to rent a backyard shack. She was also kicked out for failing to pay rent. “I don’t work. Sometimes I don’t eat for the whole day,” she said.
Sibongile sleeps on pieces of cardboard on the floor and has one blanket. When it rained recently the rain came into the shack and made her damp and cold.
“We don’t get proper sleep at night,” she said. “During the day we feel sleepy and tired.”
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