By Natasha Prince – Cape Argus
11 June 2009
There is no quick fix for the desperately poor housing conditions in overpopulated Masiphumelele, despite sporadic protests by evicted backyard dwellers demanding land.
The settlements’ Pokelwa Street was plunged into disarray for much of yesterday as police fired rubber bullets at backyard dwellers who demonstrated against a mass eviction earlier this week.
Three people had been arrested for public violence by midday on Friday
Disgruntled community representative Mfundiso Ngetu said the backyarders had no place to go and that protest would continue until their demands were met.
Several backyard dwellers were evicted from private landowners’ property as a result of a provincial housing project in the area this week.
Backyard dwellers’ shacks on private property were set to be demolished in order for the property owners to construct houses on their land.
This land falls under phase one and phase two of the housing project.
“We were not told by the people (the landlords) or the project’s organisers that they would be building houses,” said Ngetu.
One of the backyarders said: “This is provocation.” There were calls for the housing MEC to explain.
At the heart of the controversy is a vacant piece of land which falls in phase four of the project and which is available but “not ready” for settlement. Phase four is reserved for use as a temporary relocation area.
The backyard dwellers have since been left out in the cold.
Police station commissioner Captain Helena Mouton confirmed that since the first evictions began on Monday there had been a tension and sporadic protests.
Police and Metro Police officers used force yesterday to disperse the group that burnt tyres and threw stones in Kommetjie Road.
An emergency meeting was called at the local community centre, but the backyarders were not satisfied that the ward councillor for the area, Felicity Purchase, would take their demands to the necessary authorities.
Purchase listened to their concerns during the heated discussion in the packed community hall.
After the meeting Purchase said: “I know how they feel but they have expectations the council cannot fulfil. We will do what we can but there is no quick solution.”
Roger Carney, the housing project manager in the area, said there are “too many people in Masiphumelele for the amount of available land”.
“Even if we can speed up some of the sites, the density would increase and we’d have to move more people. It would cost us millions of rands.”
Carney said the position of the backyard dwellers had been noted. “I understand how they feel and I can’t give them an answer when they ask me where they are going to sleep tonight.”
* This article was originally published on page 6 of Saturday Argus on June 13, 2009