31 March 2023
On Sunday, 36-year-old Sabeleni Zimele bought zinc sheets and wood and erected a shack on vacant land in Lingelethu, Malmesbury. Other residents followed him. Some marked out and prepared plots to erect shacks later, while others had already erected their structures by Monday.
But the municipality-owned land is earmarked for phase 1 of the De Hoop housing development, which will create 2,500 “housing opportunities”.
Swartland Law Enforcement tore down the structures on Tuesday.
The occupiers responded by burning tyres and strewing trash along Alfa Street in the township.
Malmesbury SAPS spokesperson Captain Marko Heydenrych said approximately 250 people were busy erecting informal structures when Swartland law enforcement arrived, responding to complaints about the “land invasion” in progress. The officials were stoned, and SAPS and public order police (POPs) were called to the scene. He said they used rubber bullets and teargas to disperse the crowd.
Zimele said he was at work on Tuesday when his friend called to alert him that his shack was being torn down. Zimele told GroundUp that his partner was in the shack feeding their three-month-old infant when law enforcement arrived and ordered her to vacate the shack.
When he arrived he found officials with “big metal hammers” knocking down his new home. He pleaded with them not to destroy his shack, built with materials worth R5,800. He says his household belongings and furniture were left damaged and scattered about.
“They’ll just have to kill me here. When we ask for services they say we must wait. I am still on a housing waiting list,” said Zimele. He said he has been on the housing list since 2013.
Zimele says he has been living in Malmesbury since 2006. He has been renting in an adjacent informal settlement.
Zimele claims Ward 9 Councillor Mkhululi Ngozi (ANC) told them that if more than five shacks were erected on the land he would support the occupation.
However, Councillor Ngozi says he went to stop the occupation before law enforcement arrived, and that he had explained to the community at a meeting afterwards that the Swartland Municipality needed the land for a housing project.
Swartland municipal manager Joggie Scholtz said the municipality “reserves the right not to comment on the allegations being made with regards to the actions of Law Enforcement and POPs”.
He said the land is reserved for building an estimated 2,500 housing opportunities. The funding for 1,013 of these over the next two financial years has been published in the Provincial Gazette of 14 March 2023.
He said the land has had site development plan status since 16 May 2022 and R30-million of bulk service infrastructure has already been installed.
In a statement on Tuesday, Swartland municipal spokesperson Mart-Marié Haasbroek said the municipality was making “every effort” to prevent a land grab.
Haasbroek said the municipality met with representatives of the people attempting to erect structures on Monday and it was explained to them why they should not occupy the land.
“The municipality has an obligation to act and protect the interest of the greater community. Under no circumstances can the illegal action of a few people be allowed to compromise thousands of residents who have been patiently waiting on housing lists for years,” she said.