Tyre burning a call for help

2016-03-15 06:00
Residents clashed with law enforcement after they illegally occupied a vacant piece of land close to Crestaway High School. When their shacks were demolished they took to the streets.  PHOTO: Douglas WAGENSTROOM

Residents clashed with law enforcement after they illegally occupied a vacant piece of land close to Crestaway High School. When their shacks were demolished they took to the streets. PHOTO: Douglas WAGENSTROOM

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“I want a house. I have been married for four years now and I have two children, but I’m still staying in my grandmother’s backyard. This is not life. We will fight for what’s right.”

These are the words of Mitchel Issacs (30), one of the people who illegally occupied a piece of land close to Crestaway High School in 10th Avenue, Retreat.

A group of about 100 residents started building shacks on the land before the City of Cape Town’s Law Enforcement demolished the structures.

The land invaders then took to the street and burnt tyres, saying they had to stand up and fight so that they could be recognised. They claimed they were tired of waiting whilst officials sit comfortably in their offices.

Isaacs, who is staying in Steenberg, says being a backyard dweller is very difficult.

“We are more than 10 people and we are there because we have nowhere else to go. There is no privacy; you can’t even move because the space is just too small.

“For six years I have been on the waiting list, but I know I will not get a house anytime soon because there are people who have been waiting far longer than me. For how long must we continue to struggle as backyarders? Others have got their houses; it’s also time that we get something,” he says.

Jackie Williams (40), a mother of two who was also amongst the illegal occupiers, says they are left with no other choice but to take the land illegally.

“No-one wants to listen to us. We are struggling. Those who are supposed to be helping us are turning a blind eye to our situation. For them to come and hear us out we must be in the streets.”

Kevin Southgate, ward councillor in the area, says he condemns the land invasion.

“While we acknowledge the need for housing, we need to respect that there is a process under way. People wanting to benefit from a housing opportunity need to ensure that they apply to the City to have their name placed on the City’s housing database, for which there is no charge.

“The City works according to the housing database and allocations policy when assigning people a housing opportunity. There are no shortcuts.

“The burning of tyres was unacceptable and a clear sign of vandalism and public violence,” he says.

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