Life is an endless battle for residents of Cathkin Squatter Camp in Heideveld.
Despite surviving without services for more than a year now, they face eviction as they are illegally occupying land belonging to the provincial department of public works at the back of Cathkin High School.
Residents moved to the land in May last year after waiting for about 10 years for their houses from the City of Cape Town.
They never got services and says the City and ward councillor Anthony Moses are denying them services.
Residents have since used buckets to relieve themselves. They get water from nearby flats, where the majority of people previously stayed with their families. They say the backyards of their families were overcrowded and they needed to find alternatives housing.
They have no proper electrical connections and their garbage is not collected. They have to find ways to make sure the area remains in bearable conditions for survival.
Recently there was a fire allegedly caused by a faulty electrical connection and could not be doused due to lack of water (“City blamed for fire damage,” People’s Post, 2 July).
The majority is unemployed and share between a one to three-bedroom shacks. Families of two or more members including children live these shacks.
According to residents the reason for all these problems is a delayed in housing delivery and corruption that happened with a previous housing- project in 2014 (the Mellon Housing Initiative).
They say some of the people living in the squatter camp were beneficiaries of that project, but their houses were illegally sold or handed over to other people.
They blame Moses for failing to listen and to help them. They say Moses is never available and bad-mouth them to other authorities, making it difficult for them to seek interventions.
They are also accusing him of giving a unit he previously lived in, to his son instead of one of the needy residents after he bought his house in the area.
Recently, they held a housing meeting where they excluded him and gave resolutions for a way forward in addressing their issues.
Resolutions included a few public meetings and more actions starting by directly engaging with mayor Dan Plato which materialised on Wednesday 17 July when Plato agreed to meet with their delegates.
Resolutions also included solidarity in exposing Moses for “who he is” in the community.
Getting answers about the processes, the quality and how things are handled at the Mellon Housing Development as they say there are still irregularities. Battle over this issue has reportedly been going on since the occupants moved in.
One of the residents who claim she was a beneficiary of that project but never got a house is Farinaaz Lakay.
“I still do not know how my name disappeared from the list. I was so excited. Life here is difficult. My husband and I share a bedroom with our 10-year-old daughter and have to look for suitable times to go empty the buckets. Where is dignity in that.”
Not far from her is Shahida Bakkus’s family. Her husband Reedowan Bakkus suffered a stroke last year after being evicted from where they stayed, ending up at the squatter camp sharing a small one-bedroom with their teenage daughter.
She says Moses could not help them and their life conditions keep deteriorating. Reedowan cannot walk or use his hands and use catheters.
The City says they are illegal occupants on land belonging to provincial government.
Moses says he is aware of the allegations and processes were follow and the issue around the unit was resolve.
According to him, there is a case pending in court for the illegal occupation of land and they are waiting for the legal proceedings to be finalised.
However, he said his office is looking at ways in which services can be delivered in the area.
“Money is being collected from ‘poor’ people to cover illegal costs that could have been avoided,” he said.
He added that his doors are open to those in need of help. However, he says there are people telling residents not to approach me and only talk to them (residents) about service delivery issues,” Moses says.
Residents admitted paying R100 every month since November last year for lawyers services.
Ntomboxolo Makoba-Somdaka, the public works department spokesperson says the department is aware of the “land invasion and that the matter is handled by the provincial department of education.
Bronagh Hammond, spokesperson for the education department says the invasion has a negative impact on the school and that the land will soon be needed for the school’s rebuilding.
“Cathkin High will receive an entirely new school building. The plans include the portion where the school will be is on illegally occupied land,” says Hammond.