Toilet City eviction postponed by court

Port Elizabeth Municipality has until 15 December to report on alternative land and accommodation for occupiers

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Photo of a group of people on the steps of the High Court
Residents of Khayamnandi informal settlement in Despatch at the Port Elizabeth High Court opposed an eviction order by the municipality. Photo: Joseph Chirume

On Thursday, the Port Elizabeth High Court postponed an eviction order brought by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality (NMBM) against about 800 previous backyard dwellers now occupying development land in Khayamnandi near Despatch.

The occupation started in October 2015 on unoccupied residential plots that had a foundation slab and a toilet, earning the area the name “Toilet City”. The occupiers claim that most of them had been on the housing list for many years, that the unoccupied plots were harbouring criminals and the structures were being vandalised.

Sixteen people represented the group in court. The postponement is until 15 December.

Spokesperson for the group, Amanda, who requested her full name not be published, said, “We occupied these structures in June 2015. We were few when we started, but the number swelled in October when many landless people around the metro heard about the place.

“Some of our members have been on the housing waiting list for more than 15 years. We are also irritated by the fact that people from other areas are getting these houses [the development on the occupied plots in “Toilet City”] instead of us. We have people who grew up here in Khayamnandi,” she said.

“We will not move out of this area. We will not even move to another area. When we were moved from another squatter camp last year, we were told our houses would be completed by November.”

Spokesperson for Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Mthubanzi Mniki said that the municipality will abide by the High Court ruling. “But … our position remains that those people are occupying those stands illegally.”

Amanda also made the allegation that R75 million set aside to build the houses had “disappeared”.

This was denied by Mniki. “The money has not been released because the contractor has not been appointed. There are interactions between the municipality, Coega Industrial Development Zone and the provincial and national human settlements departments that need to be completed before the money could be released.”

Lynett Verlig, who grew up in nearby Despatch, moved to Khayamnandi in July 2015. She said, “I am disabled and unable to keep moving places in search of a better place. We have been protesting since the municipality issued us with an eviction order on 28 June 2016 … At first, the municipality told us that we were going to be the first beneficiaries of these houses. We will fight till we get these houses.”

Xolile Frans, who is 33 and unemployed, said, “The municipality cut off water to these houses. We are now using the bush. We have to pay for water from other residents in Despatch. This is creating diseases … It is also dangerous to walk in the night because of criminals and it’s dark here.”

Vinesh Naidu, who is the group’s legal representative, said: “The case was postponed because the judge was not satisfied that the municipality had provided sufficient alternative accommodation for those people who would be designated to be unlawful in the Khayamnandi area. Between now and 15 December, the municipality attorneys will provide us with a copy of a report on what alternative land there is.”

TOPICS:  Housing Land

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