Lwandle evictions: fear and flames

2014-06-08 15:00

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It was a week of trauma and tumult – but the atmosphere in the clamorous Nomzamo Community Hall in Strand was oddly celebratory on Friday.

About 300 people are sheltering there after they were thrown out of their homes on a stretch of land in Lwandle owned by the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) earlier this week.

A break in Cape Town’s unrelenting rain and hail; a rush of donations from churches, NGOs and individuals; and news that Sanral had agreed to provide alternative land and accommodation may have lifted the mood on Friday.

But the anger at what had transpired on Monday and Tuesday – when rubber bullets, tear gas and barbed wire were used to keep people away as their homes were being destroyed – lay just beneath the surface.

The anger is palpable in Zanele’s voice – she did not want to provide her surname – as she explained how the home she and her boyfriend had built for their children, aged two and seven, was wrecked without warning.

Zanele (22) says authorities – she claims it was the City of Cape Town’s disaster risk management centre – shifted them to Lwandle six months ago from an informal settlement in Blackheath because they were occupying flood-prone land.

They believed Lwandle was safe from evictions. But on Monday and Tuesday they lost all their belongings, including ID documents and her children’s clinic cards. Their furniture, including a fridge and TV they had just bought and will still have to pay off, were taken away by authorities.

Some of the men were more optimistic. “I’m pretending to be good now,” said Innocent Njena (29). “But speak to me on Tuesday and I will be good. I’ll be a man you can take a photograph,” he said, miming posing next to a new home.

The news of possibly better times ahead had come from the Ses’khona People’s Rights Movement, which has taken the lead in organising and coordinating relief.

Vuseka Nkwali (20) was lying next to her sleeping three-month-old daughter, studying for a test. She took nothing

from the home she shared with her mother, boyfriend and baby. With some effort, she managed to again get hold of the notes she needed to write her test and qualify as a cashier.

On Friday, Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille said the city was providing emergency housing kits on land identified by Sanral or Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.

Sisulu this week took responsibility for the evictions, appointed a six-member task team to investigate the matter and announced that Sanral would purchase land on which the families could be permanently housed.

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