Mandela Park shacks petrol-bombed

This is the latest in a series of attacks on this group of land occupiers since August

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Siyakhana informal settlement resident Mzikayise Khebe at the window through which a petrol bomb was thrown onto his bed. Fortunately, the petrol bomb did not explode. Photo: Vincent Lali.

  • People who occupied land earmarked for a housing project in Mandela Park, Khayelitsha, have been subject to a series of violent attacks.

  • The attacks are believed to be orchestrated by backyarders in Mandela Park who expected to benefit from the housing project.
  • But the chairperson of the Mandela Park Backyarders Association says they promised not to attack the land occupiers and knows nothing of the latest incident.

People occupying land in Mandela Park, Khayelitsha, have once again come under attack when four homes were petrol-bombed during the early hours of 16 November.

This appears to be the latest in a series of attacks since August this year. The Mandela Park informal settlement known as Siyakhana was established when people occupied the land during the Covid lockdown in 2020. The land was earmarked for the Mahama infill housing project, offering 1,906 housing opportunities, according to previous statements by Cape Town’s Mayco Member for Human Settlements, James Vos.

One of the victims of the latest attack was Indiphile Maliwa, who lives in a shack in Siyakhana with her mother, brother and son.

Maliwa said a petrol-bomb was thrown at their home at about 2:30am on 16 November. She said she heard neighbours shouting for them to wake up as their shack was burning.

Khayakazi Morris was patrolling the area with other land occupiers in a bid to prevent attacks, believed to come from backyarders in Mandela Park who were hoping to benefit from the Mahama housing project.

“We saw a fire burn Indiphile’s shack and rushed to put it out with sand because we don’t have water taps here,” said Morris.

When GroundUp visited Maliwa’s home later that day, sections of her shack were blacked by smoke and windows were broken.

“If the residents had not woken us up, we would have burnt to death because we use a gas stove,” she said.

Another resident, Mzikayise Khebe, said he had just returned home from patrol and was busy unlocking the metal gate to go into his front door, when a fellow patroller called to warn there was someone behind him.

Khebe said he turned to see a young person wearing a Panama hat and a mask threatening to throw a petrol bomb at him. Khebe said he ran around to the back of his shack to find a brick or rock he could use as a weapon. When he returned, the person had thrown a petrol bomb through his window.

Khebe showed GroundUp pieces of the broken bottle on his bed. “He lit his petrol bomb and threw it at my shack, but it didn’t burn because I pray,” he said.

Khebe said he and other patrollers chased the attacker, who fled to a street outside Siyakhana, where they were confronted by someone else brandishing a gun, who ordered them to leave.

Khebe, who works as a guard in Lansdowne said: “Now I’m frightened to stay alone. I ask other residents to stay with me. I can’t even go to work because I worry about my shack.”

Community leader Nzondi Javu’s home was also attacked, but she said the petrol bomb thrown through a window into her shack landed on her bed but it did not catch alight.

Javu, who has two children aged seven and ten, said the attacker broke her window. “The backyarders who want us to vacate the land know that we stay with kids, but they don’t care about them.”

Javu said a City official had visited Siyakhana on 14 November to find out if the Siyakhana occupiers would agree to being moved elsewhere.

“The official said he would look for land to relocate us to,” said Javu. “We are willing to move elsewhere if City officials are involved and if everything is done lawfully, because we don’t want to occupy other land and get evicted,” she said.

Siyakhana informal settlement residents were attacked by Mandela Park backyarders in September, and again in October. But Thando Abe, chairperson of Mandela Park Backyarders, said: “We are against any form of violence.”

Abe said there had been a meeting between the backyarders and Siyakhana residents at the Harare police station, where the backyarders promised not to attack the land occupiers. “I’m not even aware that their shacks had been petrol-bombed,” he said.

Western Cape police spokesperson Wesley Twigg said a case of attempted arson was being investigated. “No arrests have been made. The investigation into the matter continues,” stated Twigg.

City media liaison officer Karl van den Heever stated City officials visited Siyakhana informal settlement on Friday 17 November to “address the residents and community leadership about their concerns”.

“The City can confirm that a survey was carried out by the Informal Settlements Department recently, and we are looking into all feasible options to assist the community,” stated van den Heever.

He stated more than 1,906 housing opportunities were lost when the land earmarked for the Mahama housing project was occupied in 2020, but the remaining unoccupied area is under construction and will provide 261 housing opportunities.

Correction on 2023-11-23 11:22

Thando Abe's surname was spelled incorrectly in the original version of this story.

TOPICS:  Housing

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