Gugulethu backyarders make community hall their home

Occupiers hope to benefit from new housing project, but it’s not certain they will

Photo of beds in a hall

About 80 people, mostly former backyarders, have been living in the Gugulethu community hall for nearly a year. Photo Mary-Anne Gontsana

By Mary-Anne Gontsana

13 May 2019

The community hall in Gugulethu has become home to about 80 people, who are mostly backyarders from the area.

The group have dubbed themselves the Gugulethu Seven or G7, after the anti-apartheid fighters who were killed by police in 1986. They have been living in the hall since June 2018. They occupied an open piece of land in February 2018 after unsuccessfully demanding housing. They were evicted in June, rebuilt their shacks and then during rainy weather they moved into the Luyolo Community Centre in NY126. The hall is next to the piece of land they previously occupied.

Inside the hall, a row of beds is stacked against the wall with two single couches in one corner. Freshly washed clothes hang from the hall’s second floor railing. Upstairs, there are more makeshift living areas and rooms with a fridge, couch and beds.

Backyarder Phindile Nazo said they moved into the hall to save the few belongings they had left from the rain. “Most of us lost things like fridges, microwaves and other appliances. Our structures could not stand the heavy rains.” The group moved into the hall with the permission of ward councillor Bongani Ngcombolo, he said.

But Ngcombolo denies giving the group the go-ahead to occupy the hall. “They are lying. If I did that I could be charged by the City of Cape Town. Why would I willingly allow people to take my office?” he said.

Nazo said the backyarders expected to benefit from the Airport Precinct provincial government housing project launched in Gugulethu on 30 April, and to be moved to temporary structures while the homes were being built. Human Settlements MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela announced that 9,000 duplex and multi-storey walk-up units would be built for people living in several Gugulethu informal settlements and backyarders.

But Nathan Adriaanse, spokesperson for Madikizela, told GroundUp on Monday that the Luyolo Community Centre group had not been screened and he could not confirm how many of them would benefit from the development.

“This project will cater for beneficiaries within the surrounding areas and will not be exclusively limited to beneficiaries within Gugulethu. It is important to note that the Department of Human Settlements has had a number of engagements with residents from Gugulethu. These are on-going engagements where we introduce the project and discuss and outline the qualifying criteria.

“The group which you are referring to in your enquiry has not been screened. We cannot at this stage confirm the exact number of people who will benefit from the Airport Precinct development and by implication the issue of temporary accommodation cannot be confirmed at this stage,” said Adriaanse.