Tensions between residents of houses and shacks spill over into violence in Cape Town

Siyakhana shack dwellers accuse Mandela Park residents of attacking them

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Siyakhana shackdwellers accuse Mandela Park residents of knocking down their shacks to force them to move. Photo: Vincent Lali

  • People who occupied vacant land in Mandela Park, Khayelitsha, say neighbouring residents have been attacking them, trying to burn and demolish their shacks.
  • One man has been stabbed. The alleged perpetrator from the formal housing group appeared in court and was released on bail.
  • The land, earmarked for a housing project, was occupied during the Covid lockdown.

Mandela Park backyarders have vowed to “clean” land earmarked for housing in Khayelitsha on which shacks have been built.

Tensions between Mandela Park residents and people living in the nearby informal settlements of Siyakhana and Siyahlala spilled over into violence last month. Shack dwellers say the residents, who want them to move from the area, have attacked them at night and burned or demolished their shacks.

The area, which had been earmarked for the Mahama housing project, was occupied during the Covid pandemic. The City of Cape Town has said that the land has been lost for housing, but residents of Mandela Park, including backyarders who were hoping for housing, want the land cleared.

On Monday, Anda Ntsodo, chairperson of the City of Cape Town’s Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements visited the area to try to defuse the tension. He said the Mahama project could benefit 2,000 families and there should not be a “fight’ over the land.

Community leader Sibongile Mzondi said the shackdwellers should not be forced off the land without other land being found for them. “Residents from formal houses promised to find vacant spaces that don’t belong to Mahama project, but now they force us out of the land without finding those spaces for us.”

But Thando Aba, chairperson of Mandela Park Backyarders, said: “We will clean the land. We will burn grass. If the shacks catch fire, it’s not our fault.”

“We will fence the land and the project will go ahead. Mandela Park residents will defend themselves,” he said.

Ward councillor Rider Mkutswana urged residents of the informal settlements to compile a list of households. “We say bring the list and we will check who stays on the land and see if we can find spaces for them,” said Mkutswana.

“If you work or have a house elsewhere, we can’t help you find a place to put up your shack.”

“After this meeting I must ask the City to fence the land, and officials must see that it is vacant,” said Mkutswana.

Siyakhana shack dweller Linda Morris told GroundUp following an attack on 24 August, that he and others were patrolling in the early hours of Sunday 27 August when they discovered people from Mandela Park trying to burn a shack.

“We spotted the resident trying to make a fire with paper to burn a shack. He kept on striking a match but the paper didn’t catch fire,” said Morris.

“After we told him not to burn the shack, he insulted us, pulled out a knife and stabbed Makhwenkwe Holose,” he said. Holose was one of the patrollers.

Morris said Holose was stabbed in the head, shoulder and in the mouth. “We sent him to hospital bleeding and in agony,” he said.

A man was arrested and appeared in the Khayelitsha Magistrates’ Court on 30 August in connection with the stabbing. He was granted bail at no cost and ordered not to assault, harass, or intimidate Holose, and to appear in court again on 6 October.

Sikelelo Holose said his brother had been discharged from Khayelitsha District Hospital on the Monday afternoon. “His tooth is broken and his gum is scarred. He keeps on spitting out blood as it continues to accumulate in his mouth.”

Western Cape Department of Health and Wellness spokesperson Abulele Dyasi confirmed doctors had treated Makhwenkwe for stab wounds.

Morris said his own shack was one of those targeted on Thursday 24 August, when Mandela Park residents poured petrol on it and set it alight. He said they stole his takkies and four cell phones he was fixing to earn money, and damaged his security gate.

With no water taps in the area, Siyakhana residents used cooking and drinking water they had stored in their shacks to put out the fire.

Siyakhana resident Toto Ngethu said a large crowd had come from Mandela Park and demolished his shack on the night of 24 August.

“While I was helping a friend rebuild his shack, mothers and their kids approached and asked us why we were rebuilding a shack when we were supposed to dismantle all our shacks and leave,” he said.

Ngethu said: “Afterwards men arrived, shoved, stoned and shook my shack and broke my windows.”

They also broke his burglar door and his wooden door and stole his belongings, he said.

“I have not yet fixed the shack. I’m scared to sleep in it again in case the residents petrol-bomb it.”

He said he is staying at his sister’s place nearby.

Ngethu said he and other shack dwellers started to collect discarded wooden planks to make fire after the residents who damaged his shack left.

He said while they were collecting firewood, they saw smoke coming from another shack. They rushed to extinguish the fire.

Ngethu said they reported the burning and demolition of their shacks to the station commander at Harare police station on Friday.

“The station commander refused to open a case and said I must add my story to the case that we opened as a community against the residents of formal houses,” he said.

Warrant Officer Nosiphiwo Mntengwana from the Harare police station said if there was an existing case, complainants needed to add the new information to the docket rather than open a new case. She said the additional information would be given to the investigating officer.

TOPICS:  Housing Local government

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