Mpolweni gets victory

2020-04-23 06:00
A heavy City of Cape Town law enforcement presence kept residents in their toes PHOTO: Mzwanele mkalipi

A heavy City of Cape Town law enforcement presence kept residents in their toes PHOTO: Mzwanele mkalipi

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Expressions of triumph and pure jubilation could be seen on the faces of Mpolweni residents, in Makhaza, after the Western Cape High Court made an interim ruling in their favour on Friday 17 April.

Ululations, loud cheers and struggle songs reverberated through the open field where residents had gathered to hear from their leaders the outcome of their court bid to remain on the land along Baden Powell Drive.

The residents have been at loggerheads with the City of Cape Town to remain on the land for the last couple of weeks.

And on Friday Judge Justice Hack ordered the City to return all building material in its possession to the residents. The material was removed from the area between Thursday 9 and Saturday 11 April. In his judgement, Hack ordered that no other structures should be erected on the land other than the 49 identified residents.

Residents were joined in their battle by human settlements minister Lindiwe Sisulu and several ANC leaders including Cameron Dugmore, Xolani Sotashe and Andile Lili among others.

Nkosikhona Swartbooi, head of political organising at Ndifuna Ukwazi, hoped the presence of Sisulu would make a “huge” change in the lives of Mpolweni residents.

“The people that live here need basic services which are not a privilege but a right to human dignity. We went to court with heavy hearts as the result of City of Cape Town’s actions against our people, and we are happy to have been granted this interim order,” said Swartbooi.

Siyasanga Sangcozi (31), a mother of three, said she was happy with the court outcome. “To us as residents of Mpolweni, this is a great victory. From the beginning we were not fighting with the City but wanted to have homes to live in, as we’re homeless.

“To have a shelter brings a lot of dignity, and we also have elderly people here that have nowhere to go,” said Sangcozi. She said she previously paid R450 monthly rental in Kuyasa. She said she decided to erect a shack in the area after she lost her job.

Sisulu thanked local leaders, non-governmental organisations and Gift of the Givers that had come to the rescue of the Mpolweni community. “I have already organised a tent, especially for women, so they can be able to sleep. In my knowledge the two tents will accommodate 100 people each for now. The next thing will be toilets, the return of your material and provision of water,” she said. Sisulu repeatedly thanked Gift of the Givers for supplying residents with food.

In response to the judgement, the City said it had “noted” the decision by the High Court decision on the Khayelitsha “illegal land invasion”.

“According to the Judge, the City was entitled to protect its land. He has made an interim ruling on humanitarian grounds and without considering the merits of the application and has allowed 49 occupiers to re-erect structures,” the City said in a statement.

“The merits of the application will be decided after the lockdown ends. The City is allowed to remove any new illegally erected structures with immediate effect. Land invasions are illegal. The Judge acknowledged this aspect and emphatically denounced land grabs,” read the statement. 

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