Violent clashes in Masiphumelele over future of sportsfield

The City wants to build temporary houses on it but as one resident says, “To the City, temporary can be 25 years.”

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Community members in Masiphumelele, mostly youths, have been protesting against the City of Cape Town’s attempts to establish a temporary residential area for fire victims on a sportsfield. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

  • A fire in December left hundreds of households in Masiphumelele homeless.
  • The City wants to put up temporary shelters for 489 households at the Masiphumelele Sports Complex.
  • There have been violent clashes almost daily between Law Enforcement and members of the community who oppose the City’s plans, saying they want to keep their sports field.
  • A fire victim said she fears for her safety if housed at the sportsfield.

Almost every night since last week Tuesday, Masiphumelele has become a battlefield between City of Cape Town Law Enforcement, Red Ant security guards and angry residents trying to stop the establishment of a temporary residential area (TRA) on a sportsfield.

Rubber bullets have been used to disperse stone-throwing protesters.

In a statement, the City said the TRA project has been delayed by violence, intimidation and even petrol bomb attacks. Last week Friday, some TRA structures were destroyed.

At least one person was arrested on Monday, charged with malicious damage to property.

The City insists that the Masiphumelele Sports Complex field is the only immediately available option for temporarily accommodating people left without shelter by a huge fire on 17 December.

But residents, mostly youths, say they will not allow this.

The City has accommodated 401 households on land nearby. The City says it needs the sportsfield for another 489 households left homeless by the fire.

GroundUp saw trucks escorted by Law Enforcement delivering building material on Wednesday. Tyres were still burning in the road. In the early hours, cars had been damaged during a clash between Law Enforcement, security guards and protesters.

One of five community leaders who spoke to GroundUp, Khayalethu Manga, said he is currently living with relatives. The fire had also left him homeless.

“As much as we are desperate for houses we understand the youths’ grievance when they say the sportsfield is the only thing that can keep them out of trouble. And we have been living here in Masi for years, and we know that three other sportsfields were taken from them under similar circumstances,” said Manga.

He said on 25 February, community leaders met with the City and suggested it use instead land behind the sports field bought by the City in 2003 under former Mayor Nomaindia Mfeketho.

Manga said the sportsfield will only accommodate 420 (not 489) shelters.

“If they use the R5131 land, everyone will be accommodated,” he said.

But the City says this area cannot be used as it is currently subject to a legal process “including a land transfer and environmental authorisation”.

It said the legal process time frames were beyond the City’s control and that there were alternative sports fields available in the area for the community.

“It is especially cruel that many who have received their temporary accommodation already are seemingly in support of the violent actions, now that they themselves have been housed,” said the City.

Meanwhile, unhoused fire victim Onwabisa Mgwetana said, “Yes, we want the houses, but these are our children who are using this sportsfield … And to the City, temporary can be 25 years.”

She was also concerned about her safety. Who was going to help them when angry residents come to demolish their temporary homes because they are located on the sportsfield, she asked.

TOPICS:  Fire Housing Sport

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