No reprieve for shack dwellers

2018-05-10 06:01
Fikiswa Nomana said a resident phoned her at work to say her shack was busy being destroyed. PHOTO: GROUND UP

Fikiswa Nomana said a resident phoned her at work to say her shack was busy being destroyed. PHOTO: GROUND UP

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On Monday officials demolished 49 shacks at Msindweni informal settlement, Khayelitsha.

Priya Reddy, City Communications Director, said, “The City is not removing residents. The City is removing incomplete and vacant structures in terms of the court order which it obtained in order to prevent the illegal occupation of its land.” Reddy emphasised that no persons were “evicted”. Reddy said the land is part of a road reserve.

But Musa Gwebani of the Social Justice Coalition said the use of the interdict as an eviction order by the City is not lawful. “The City says it destroys shacks that are vacant, but here there are pots, a bed and a washing machine. These belongings are sufficient proof that someone stays here,” she said, showing GroundUp the possessions of a person whose shack was demolished.

Gwebani said she phoned the sheriff. “The sheriff says officials knock on doors and check if there is a bed inside the shack. Would they do that in the suburbs? Must people not go to work or school?” she asked.

Residents tell a very different story from the City’s version of only vacant structures being removed. Nomfundo Sindi was one of the land occupiers who had her shack demolished. “They left my bed lying outside and exposed to rain,” she said.

“First they asked me to let them look inside the shack. Afterwards, they said they would destroy my shack because no one stays in it.” She said she tried to convince them that she was living in it with her three children, aged 10, 15 and 18. They ignored her. She first erected her shack in Msindweni on 3 March. It was demolished ten days later. “At that time they [the City] never checked whether someone stayed in the shack or not. They just destroyed all shacks standing here,” she said.

Vuyokazi Magida said her shack was also occupied. Her sister slept in it on Sunday night. The shack was demolished while she was at work on Monday. “This is the fourth time. I don’t know where we will sleep tonight,” said Magida.

Mandisi Tyaba said he was busy fixing his shack when the officials arrived.

“I took a day off to fix my shack and plug leaks. I told the officials that I stay in the shack, but they destroyed it,” said Tyaba. He said he had a couch, microwave, bed, television and other possessions.

“They could see I was present and there were belongings inside it. I want the City to pay me for the building materials which they damaged,” said Tyaba. He said he has been in Msindweni since February.

Nobongile Gwantshu said two youths whom she had asked to install a door for her were arrested. “The police said they were not supposed to build a shack while law enforcement officials were busy demolishing shacks … The police handcuffed the youths and frogmarched them to a waiting police vehicle.”

Community leader Bongani Tukutezi said, “We expected the City of Cape Town to leave us alone until our case has been settled in court. We were shocked when the law enforcement came to demolish shacks here.”

Tukutezi said police fired rubber bullets and a teargas and arrested 17 residents when they tried to protest against the demolitions.

Reddy said City was “forced to cease” the operation “due to the situation becoming volatile and City’s staff, contractors and the SAPS officers coming under threat as toilets and surrounding vegetation were set alight and stones were being thrown.”

Western Cape police spokesperson Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana confirmed the arrests. The two youths were released on warning after appearing in the Khayelitsha Magistrates Court to face charges of public violence. The other arrested land occupiers are expected to appear in court in mid June.

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