Media: Backyard dwellers take over land

15 05 2009

By Francis Hweshe and Molly Raisch

Source: Cape Argus

About a thousand disgruntled backyard dwellers in Macassar Village, in the Strand, are set to butt heads with the City of Cape Town after they decided to illegally clear and occupy a piece of land on the margins of the N2.

The city has threatened to seek a court interdict against them if they do not halt the operation.

The backyard dwellers, part of housing lobby group, Abahlali baseMjondolo, said their patience with the government on housing delivery had “run dry”.

They also said that they were “tired of paying rent”.
A Cape Argus team visited the area yesterday and saw women, some with children in tow, and men busy at work cutting bushes with machetes, saws and spades.

The group’s spokeswoman, Ronell Muller, first downplayed the land invasion, saying that they were clearing the land in order to host games for backyard dwellers at the weekend.

“We will see what happens after the games,” she said.

Pressed to clarify her response, she said: “If they are open spaces why not allow people to build houses.”

Muller, who is a mother of two, said she was retrenched last year and was now failing to pay rent and struggled to send her children to school.

“Some of the people here have been waiting for houses for more than 20 years,” she said.

Diniwe Xhakwe agreed.

“We don’t have any place to stay.

“Unemployment here is high and we are still waiting for houses,” said Xhakwe, a mother of three, who is also taking care of her late sister’s two children.

Xhakwe, unemployed, said they were “not doing this (taking the land) by force”.

She said “tough circumstances” had pushed them over the edge.

Jeffrey le Roux, a father of two, said the group had lost patience with government.

“Every time they tell us to come for housing in three or five years time. I have been renting for 10 years,” he said.

Le Roux said his family survived on his R960 disability grant, which barely covered bills and food.

Vusimuzi Sihamba, 29, said: “I want to build my house here.”

In a statement, the group said it would continue with its “cleaning campaign on the land that we have identified ourselves until Friday (today).”

Steve Hayward, head of the city’s anti-land invasion unit, said the land had been reserved for a housing development for those on the waiting list.

He said development on the land were set to start in the next two years.

“We have zero tolerance towards land invasion,” he said.

“We won’t allow the Johnnies-come-lately to occupy the land.”

o This article was originally published on page 8 of Cape Argus on May 15, 2009

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