Mfuleni backyarders clash over land

| Johnnie Isaac
Angry Ward 108 residents broke down shacks in Mfuleni in a battle over housing at the weekend. Photo by Masixole Feni.

A piece of land in Bardale was the site of clashes at the weekend when two groups of backyard dwellers from Mfuleni confronted each other.

Several people say they have received letters from the City Council advising them to relocate there while waiting for their formal houses.

A group of backyard dwellers from Ward 108 in Mfuleni destroyed several shacks belonging to people who say they were relocated to the land by the City Council. The Ward 108 backyard dwellers claimed that the land belonged to them, saying their Councillor had promised them that they would be housed there.

They sang songs saying the land had been illegally sold to people living in hostel backyards including those they were evicting.

They warned the other group that they would come back if they saw them continuing to put up shacks.

They said they had been waiting for houses for more than 20 years.

“These people must go back where they came from because they cannot stay here on our plots,” said Belinda Tatiya who is one of the Ward 108 backyard dwellers. She said she had been on the housing waiting list since 2000 and that Ward 108 City Councillor Themba Honono had taken her and others to the land and declared that they would be relocated there.

Honono confirmed that he promised the Ward 108 backyard dwellers that land, based on an agreement with the City Council and he had been surprised to see other people being relocated there without his having being consulted. He said he would raise the matter with the City Council.

Members of the other group showed GroundUp official City of Cape Town letters authorising their occupation of those plots. They said the City Council had assisted them with a tractor to move their belongings there.

Khaya Mdingi, a backyard dweller at Extension 3 in Mfuleni since 1997, said the Ward 108 backyard dwellers had demolished his shack on Friday evening; he had rebuilt it on Saturday morning but it had been demolished again when they came a second time.

Mdingi said they had broken his television, wardrobe mirror, and everything made of glass, such as plates, cups and glasses.

Khaya Mdingi’s shack was demolished. Photo by Masixole Feni.

“If these people have a right to be on this land they should approach the municipality and not attack us. We have done nothing wrong; we only accepted the offer that City Council gave us.”

Some occupants blamed Honono for making “false promises”.

Honono said he did not condone violence. He said he had not known about the action taken by Ward 108 backyard dwellers.

“If I had known I would have stopped them and told them to wait for feedback from the City Council.”

In some of the songs sung by Ward 108 backyard dwellers a “Shakes” from the City Council - thought to be Shakes Zweni who works for the company contracted to help people apply for housing subsidies - was accused of selling the plots.

“I don’t work directly for the City of Cape Town, I work for the private company that is contracted to assist people when applying for housing subsidies and title deeds.”

Zweni said he does not decide who would be granted subsidies and had no say in the allocation of land by the City Council.

He said some people in Mfuleni were being turned down because they did not have dependents.

“Some applicants don’t have dependents or the names of their children they submit are already in the system under different people. It could be friends or relatives used the name to get an application approved.”

Zweni has criticised the Councillor’s handling of the matter. “Honono is part of the City Council and knows people dealing with relocation of housing applicants. He could have stopped his people from attacking others while sorting out the issue with the Council because he stopped construction from happening in the same area before.”

Zweni said he himself lived in a hostel and had done so since 1974. He had five children but none of them had received a house.

Councillor Siyabulela Mamkeli, the City of Cape Town Mayco member for Human Settlements, said the relocations had been executed “in accordance with an approved beneficiary allocation for the project”.

The matter had been “clarified” with the ward councillor, at a meeting on 20 October he said.

“The project requires the cooperation of all interested and affected parties”, Mamkeli said.

TOPICS:  Housing

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