Cape Town backyard dwellers doorstop housing officials at Civic Centre

“People die waiting for a house,” says backyarder from Hanover Park

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Backyard dwellers from the Cape Flats protested at the Civic Centre, demanding the City fast track making land available for social housing. Photo: Marecia Damons

A group of protesting backyarders doorstopped officials at the Cape Town Civic Centre on Wednesday, demanding that unused public land be used for social housing.

The protest was led by Social Liberals for Backyard Dwellers (SLBD), a group established in 2019 in Delft. It represents backyard dwellers and people who have been on the housing waiting list for more than a decade.

SLBD spokesperson Nadeema Samsodien says the City’s human settlements officials in July had cancelled a planned meeting with them at the eleventh hour.

“We gave them 21 days to set up another meeting. Since 7 July, we’re still waiting on a meeting,” says Samsodien.

Fatima Abrahams, who says she applied for an RDP house 32 years ago, has been living in a two-roomed wendy house in her landlord’s backyard in Hanover Park all these years. She lives with her two sons and four grandchildren. Her R2,080 disability grant is their only income. They have no running water and no toilet of their own, and have to ask their landlady to let them into the house.

“It’s very traumatic to live in such conditions. It’s very stressful for me. People die waiting for a house,” says Abrahams.

Daphne Martins, from Mitchells Plain, has been waiting for a RDP house for 23 years. She lives with her two children and two grandchildren in a one-bedroom wendy house. “We all sleep in one room, some sleep on the floor in the kitchen. My pension is R2,080. How must one live off that? It’s really hard for me,” she says.

“We cannot wait for housing anymore. People are suicidal and depressed because of it. They [officials] don’t live in the ghettos,” says SLBD founder Shariefa Nolan.

According to Nolan, in previous meetings with City officials, they had identified unused military land that could be used for housing in Wingfield and Youngsfield.

On Wednesday, newly-appointed Mayco Member for Human Settlements Carl Pophaim told the protesters that he understood their frustration because he too had been a backyarder and was evicted in Grassy Park. However, he said, “I’m not going to make promises.”

Pophaim asked the protesters to send his office a list of specific issues. He also promised to meet with their representatives.

TOPICS:  Housing

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