Mfuleni backyarders vow to stay where they are

Residents claim that land was promised in election campaign

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Photo of people building shacks
Mfuleni backyarders rebuilding their shacks on Wednesday morning. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

Despite the destruction of their shacks and the removal of their housing materials, backyarders from Mfuleni have vowed to continue occupying land. They say they were promised land during the election campaign.

The City’s Anti Land Invasion Unit (ALIU) has twice in the last two weeks destroyed shacks first built on 12 October. About 103 homes were flattened. The land occupiers from Bardale Section 24 in Ward 108 say they will continue rebuilding until the City gives in. 

Last week, when GroundUp visited, backyarders were again busy rebuilding their shacks. Children were assisting their parents.

Land for votes

The backyarders claim that when Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille, DA leader Musi Maimane, MEC of Human Settlements Bonginkosi Madikizela and Executive Support Services Officer Loyiso Nkohla were campaigning in Mfuleni, De Lille and Madikizela said there was land for all Mfuleni backyarders.

Nkohla, known for his part in the “poo protests”, was formerly with the ANC and the Ses’khona People’s Rights Movement and had the support of the backyarders.

ANC support in Ward 108 fell from 93% in 2011 to 29% in 2016, while the DA went from under 3% to 30% of the vote. There was a clear geographic split,with DA votes around 80% in the northern voting stations of the ward at United Reformed Church, Community Faith Church and Silver Sands Primary, while in the south of the ward at Mfuleni Secondary, Itsitsa and Bardale Primary the DA polled below 10%. At Bardale, where the backyarders would have most likely voted, the DA went from 1% to 10% (558 votes).

Joseph Ninji said he had nowhere else to go. “For years we are begging the City to assist us with a place to stay. We were very happy when the DA promised to give us land. Most of us here are DA members because we were promised that if we vote for the DA we will receive land. They promised us change in our lives,” he said.

“We now feel used,” said Ninji.

One backyarder said it was clear that they had been used for votes.

“We will continue building our shacks until they point us to the land they promised us,” said one backyarder, while others cheered her.

Siphokazi Pepe said, “I do not understand why they do not give us the land they promised us. De Lille said the land is here at Mfuleni and they are already working on it, but now it’s quiet. We do not know when are they going to allocate us and if the land does exist.”

City responds

Spokesperson for De Lille, Zara Nicholson, denied that backyarders had been used for their votes.

Nicholson confirmed that shacks were dismantled, but said a warning had been given to backyarders to remove their own shacks.

Nicholson said land allocation in Bardale Phase 5a was at the final stage and 275 serviced sites had been created.

According to Nicholson, in June 2015, beneficiaries had been chosen by the City in terms of council policy. She said there were 41 opportunities for Mfuleni backyarders (the remainder of the 200 initially allocated to Phase 4); 200 for beneficiaries in Ward 108; 34 for special needs cases in Ward 108 and flood victims.

She said it had always been the case that beneficiaries would be selected from the City’s database only and not from the backyarders’ lists.

“In August it was established that the backyarders group had an expectation that the beneficiaries would only be backyarders from Ward 108, and not generally from the housing database for Ward 108.

“The process was temporarily suspended to obtain clarity and opinion in this regard. During this period, the merits of the arguments were considered. It was determined that, for the demands of the backyarders to be met, potential beneficiaries from Mfuleni Ward 108, who have been on the waiting list the longest, could be discriminated against.

“When working according to the approved allocation and housing database, meritorious cases on the backyarders’ list will still be accommodated,” said Nicholson.

She said it had been decided that the only fair and transparent way forward was to continue working only from the City’s database.

“The backyarders were informed accordingly and the project is continuing as before. The backyarders group will continue to be included in the process,” she said.

TOPICS:  Housing Mfuleni

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