Tough life for evictees

2018-03-20 06:01
Dreyer’s wendy house under the Salt River bridge. PHOTOs: Nomzamo Yuku

Dreyer’s wendy house under the Salt River bridge. PHOTOs: Nomzamo Yuku

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Whilst 16 Woodstock families are trying to contest evictions, the Dreyer family say they are already living a nightmare under the Salt River bridge.

The family moved to their new home under the bridge after losing a court case that resulted in them being evicted from their long-time home in Woodstock in December 2016.

Nooraan Dreyer says the life of an evictee “is nie pap n vleis – it’s tough here”.

“You are no different from a homeless person because you lose your dignity, you do not have privacy and you have absolutely no benefit of democracy.”

The family of five – Dreyer, her two sons, a granddaughter and her husband – live in a one-room wendyhouse. They previously had two separate wendyhouses and they split family in two, but their second wendyhouse burnt down on 22 January. “Our wendyhouses were donated and we cannot afford to buy a new one,” she says.

Dreyer says there has been no progress in their case.

“All we wanted was justice. We are struggling and the conditions we are living in are unhealthy. No-one wants to help us, not even authorities. The City of Cape Town told me they do not know of any people living here,” Dreyer says.

They do not have clean water or sanitation and the place is filthy. They rely on candlelight and a wood fire and gas for cooking.

She says her husband has organised toilets for the residents but they are afraid to install them because there are no guarantees that the City will help with maintenance.

There are more than 10 shacks with people of all age groups with some of residents being reportedly evictees too.

They were reportedly advised to move to Blikkiesdorp, which Dreyer says was not an option for her family because they do not have jobs and rely on her husband’s wages from piece jobs.

Blikkiesdorp is one of the places offered by the City as temporary accommodation.

Another resident, Kauther Davids, says she wishes people could open their hearts and help them build their lives. Davids says what makes their situation worse is that people assume everyone living in the squatter camp is dealing in drugs and involved in criminal activities.

Mayco member (North), Suzette Little, says the matter can be referred to the Western Cape Department of Social Development should there be children or youth involved. The family can also apply for housing in order to get on the waiting list if they have not already done so. Little says the City cannot provide any infrastructure on privately-owned land.

She says the area in which the family is living is owned by Prasa so the City cannot provide any services there.

“The structures are built on privately-owned land and the City cannot intervene. If the person ends up on the street the Reintegration Unit can assist with placement in a shelter, access to identity documents and social grants, reunification with family and access to temporary work opportunities through the Expanded Public Works Programme­.”

Sergeant Hilton Malila, spokesperson for Woodstock police, confirmed that a case was opened in January.

He says police are investigating a case of malicious damage to property.

“Members attended to a complaint under the Salt River bridge, where one of the shacks was burning. According to information received on the scene, after a heated argument among neighbours at the informal settlement, they went to sleep and were woken up by other shack dwellers and informed that one of the shacks was on fire. No-one was injured during the blaze and no arrests have been made yet. Anyone with information or who witnessed the incident is asked to contact the investigating officer at the Woodstock Police Station, Sergeant Lucky Maluleke, on 021 486 2840,” says Malila.

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