Renewed effort to occupy land in Wallacedene

In the past week, dozens of people have erected shacks on vacant land in Wallacedene, Kraaifontein.

On Sunday, some of them disrupted a workshop on land held by SANCO (South African National Civic Organisation), demanding the organisation support the occupation.

Chairperson of Wallacedene SANCO Chippa Arosi said, “We are now fully behind the homeless residents.”

Arosi said hundreds of people first occupied the land in February. The City of Cape Town demolished and removed shacks many times, but some of the occupiers kept rebuilding and have remained on the land. However, Arosi said 361 people had been left homeless by the demolitions.

According to Arosi, in June he met with Robert Samuels of the City’s informal settlements and backyarders department and the head of informal settlement management Greg Exford at the Kraaifontein sub-council offices. He said the officials told him the City had set the land aside for about 250 residents from Joostenbergvlakte and Klein Akker.

Arosi said, “We fear that the locals will become angry and attack the residents from other locations if they settle here. So we say the City must allow the 361 residents to stay here as well. We suggested that the City officials put the project on hold while looking into our request.”

He added: “The number of residents wanting to stay on the land is no longer 361 as it has ballooned now.”

Community leader Thami Bhongoza said the number of homeless residents in the area had been increasing since 2003 as the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements built houses in Wallacedene.

“The landlords move backyarders out of their yards when the government builds houses for their landlords. Now, the former backyarders have no place to stay,” she said.

“Because some residents have no jobs and depend on government grants, the rent is too high for them,” said Bhongoza.

Nopasika Melani, 60, said she rents a backyard shack with her two daughters and their six kids for R400. She has a monthly pension of R1,600. She was planning to get some youths to build a shack for her on the land.

Sizeka Majola attempted to occupy the land in February. Her shack was demolished nine times, she says. “I’ve marked out my plot,” she said. “But I don’t know where I will get money to buy building material.”

She gets a R1,600 disability grant and pays R700 to rent a backyard shack and another R100 per month for electricity. “By the time the month ends, we are forced to beg neighbours for food,” she said.

Mayoral Committee Member for Informal Settlements Councillor Xanthea Limberg said, “We can confirm that this is City-owned land. The [renewed] illegal invasion started on Monday 24 September.”

The City’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit (ALIU) was unable to remove the unoccupied illegally erected structures due to protests on Wednesday, said Limberg.

According to Limberg, the City has not made a commitment with the regard to the 361 people. Joostenbergvlakte families are already there, while Klein Akker evictees had rejected the Wallacedene Phase 9 alternative and their legal representative requested alternative accommodation.

Regarding SANCO’s request for the 361 to be allowed to occupy the land, Limberg said, “The City receives various similar requests and it is simply not feasible to [agree] given the demand that exists. The City must act in a fair and systematic manner with due regard for those who are on the housing database and who have been waiting long for accommodation.”

“It is vital to protect City land from illegal occupation as the provision of services on new illegally formed settlements is not planned and is therefore not included in the City’s current budget or resource allocation,” said Limberg. She said any occupation of the land in question would be illegal.

This story first appeared on GroundUp

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