'2019 is coming, and you're going to lose', angry Cape Town backyarders tell minister

2018-06-22 17:39
Human Settlements Minister Nomaindia Mfeketo at a meeting with Gugulethu backyarders. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Human Settlements Minister Nomaindia Mfeketo at a meeting with Gugulethu backyarders. (Jenni Evans, News24)

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"2019 is coming, and you are going to lose!" an angry backyard dweller shouted at Human Settlements Minister Nomaindia Mfeketo during a meeting over housing shortages in Gugulethu on Friday.

Mfeketo was welcomed at the Cape Town suburb's sports centre by a loud picket of people who said they had been evicted on Tuesday from shacks they had built on unoccupied land. They said they were now fed up with being homeless and living in "cages".

"We are ready. We are ready for you," they sang as she made her way up the red carpet rolled over the markings at the Gugulethu Sports Centre for the Gugulethu Stakeholder Community Engagement.

'Kids came home to find that there is no house'

Mfeketo tried to explain that a technical team had been working on the housing crisis, identifying sites for possible new developments. She said the team had also been working on the issue of title deeds that were never issued, which prevents people from taking out loans against their properties.

However, she was very quickly drowned out, with people walking up and shouting at her. She eventually surrendered the microphone, which then roved around for people to air their complaints.

Sitting in a pearl-coloured wingback chair, with draping and pictures of new flats and houses behind her, Mfeketo listened as people complained about being denied title deeds, their feelings that there was development in white areas while black areas were ignored, and having to deal with evictions as they settled on vacant land to try and get a place to call home.

Loyiso Nkohla - dubbed the "poo thrower", but now a community liaison officer in the Cape Town mayor's office - was one of those who said they were fed up with endlessly waiting for homes.

Zelda Beukes, who had participated in the picket, said she had scraped together R3 500 needed to make a shack by selling vetkoek. Her husband had done odd jobs and borrowed money, and they had built a shack on a piece of vacant land they saw in Gugulethu.

The suburb is east of Cape Town, visible from the highway near the Cape Town International Airport, and is also where Mfeketo said she hails from.

However, law enforcement officials removed Beukes and the rest of the group who had decided to build their homes there, instead of paying money they could not afford to rent in backyards.

She said the eviction was done without any warning.

"Our kids were at school, and they came home to find that there is no house," she said.

'It's a lack of doing what is right'

Before Friday's meeting started, Mfeketo told journalists that she acknowledged that there was a housing crisis that was sparking protests around the country, often leading to regional and national roads being blocked. She said she shared the concerns of those seeking houses.

"It's not a lack of budget," said Mfeketo. "It's a lack of doing what is right."

She said creative solutions needed to be found, but "we cannot take shortcuts".

She said that some of the housing projects that appeared to have stalled had been started when she was mayor of Cape Town, and she wanted to know why.

She said even some title deeds promised by the late president Nelson Mandela had not been handed over yet.

Mfekto said, during her budget speech in May, that the housing backlog stood at 2.1 million, with the department's budget slashed by billions.

 READ: R10bn budget slash for human settlements department

Read more on:    nomaindia mfeketo  |  cape town  |  land  |  service delivery

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