Increase in backyard rentals drives Dunoon land occupations
City of Cape Town says it will continue to enforce the law
The continued demolition of shacks on a municipal sports field has led to a week of violent resistance and protests by Dunoon land occupiers.
Last week on Tuesday a truck was set alight on Potsdam Road. Police spokesperson for the Western Cape, Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana, said motorists were stoned on Potsdam Road. On Wednesday, a MyCiTi bus was stoned and all its windows smashed. Police arrived just in time to prevent it from being torched. On Thursday tyres were burnt on the N7 and Potsdam Road. On Friday, Somali spaza shop owners closed their businesses as messages started circulating on social media that shops would be looted and set alight.
In similar protests earlier in February, two MyCiTi bus stations in Usasadza and Dunoon were wrecked. The City of Cape Town is yet to effect repairs.
On Tuesday at dawn the City’s Anti Land Invasion Unit (ALIU) tore down 77 shacks erected on a sport field behind Sophakama and Silverleaf primary schools for the second time. Residents say they were awoken when ALIU officials started kicking their shack walls. Shack dwellers say resistance was met with pepper spray and police used rubber bullets to disperse them when they gathered to resist. Shack materials were loaded onto trucks and dumped at the Vissershok landfill site, they claimed.
“They started demolishing our homes while we were inside. They pushed us out,” said one woman who did not want her name published.
There was a heavy law enforcement presence on Thursday and Friday.
By Friday shacks were again being re-erected on the sports field. Wooden pegs marking out plots were still on the field.
A land occupier said a shack made of planks cost about R900. If zinc sheeting was used the cost was R1,500.
Dunoon backyard dwellers say they are being displaced when RDP houses are sold to property entrepreneurs who then build on rooms for rental income. Rooms are rented out for R1,500 to R2,000 per month. Most say they cannot afford the increased rent.
An RDP house owner in Dunoon section 23, Sipho Nara, said he plans to add on 16 rooms and rent these out to backyard dwellers for R2,000 per month. The current backyarders pay R600 for his yard space.
Mayoral committee member for informal settlements Xanthea Limberg said there is a court interdict in effect over the sports field. She said the City would continue to prevent illegal land occupations. She said it was not true that the ALIU took possessions to a landfill site. She said, “Only vacant structures will be removed, and no possessions will be confiscated. The City also cannot be held financially liable for building materials confiscated during an attempted illegal land occupation.”
She said land occupied illegally was reserved for future housing projects, industrial development, and roadways. “When land is illegally invaded, we all lose,” she said.
Limberg wrote: “The problem is that the former landowners were content to receive a rental income from these backyarders. However, when they are selling or upgrading the property the very same backyarder is considered a burden and then evicted. The City is constantly dealing with these private evictions (i.e. most of them not following a legal eviction route) and as a result must urgently identify vacant land to be serviced. There is however no serviced land readily available in Dunoon due to the very high densities and the constant threat of illegal occupations.”
On Friday, Councillor Brett Herron, Mayco Member for Transport and Urban Development, said it will cost the City approximately R100,000 to repair the bus and over R2 million to restore the MyCiTi bus stations.
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