About 100 backyarders, feeling the pinch of their landlords, forcefully took over the land and erected shacks, but these were swiftly demolished by the City of Cape Town’s Anti Land Invasion Unit.
Their furniture was also taken away, prompting the irate residents to take to the streets which they barricaded with burning tyres.
When Vukani arrived in the area, residents were marking out their plots in the drizzling weather. They vowed to fight for a place to live.
Thembalabantu May said no bullet or any punishment would stop them. “Mfuleni has grown tremendously. We have children that need space to stay. That is why we are forced to occupy this land,” he said.
Another resident, Nokuphiwa Mbeko, said she could no longer afford to pay rent. She said she does not work and the rent was too high for her. “It has become too difficult to cope. I am paying not less than R500 a month, electricity excluded. And I fully understand the homeowners. They are making a business because most of them are not working too. It is a catch-22 situation that we find ourselves in.”
Ms Mbeko said she is now staying with family members.
Her friend, who identified herself only as Nobantu, said it has been difficult to rent a home, especially as seasonal farm workers”It will be nice if the government can allow us to stay here. Rent is hitting us hard. I think the sad part is when one cannot cope to pay. You can rent for years but the day you cannot, you are out on the streets. That is why we have resorted to taking this land,” she said.
Mfuleni SANCO chairperson, Zingisile Ndamane, said he was not encouraging illegal land grabs, but sympathised with people.
“These people have every right to do that. Yes it is not a good thing but what else can they do, but occupy every piece of land available to them. I feel for them. Like me and you, they need houses,” he said.
The City said it will not be held to ransom by those instigating land grabs and the associated violence and destruction that often go with it. Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy, also called on all private sector and community partners to help stop land invasions across the metro.
“Those inciting the spate of attempted land grabs across the city do so according to their own narrow agendas.
“They do not care about the plight of our many desperate residents who ultimately have to deal with extreme flood, fire, health and safety risks when illegally settling on land that has not been earmarked for human settlement,” she said.
She said when land is invaded, it jeopardises emergency and basic service delivery.
“Many invaded erven are reserved for future housing projects, industrial development for job creation and future roadways that will be developed over time to manage urbanisation. When land is illegally invaded, we all lose,” said Ms Limberg. She said in Mfuleni, more than 390 incomplete and still unoccupied structures were built on the land.
The Sheriff of the Court served an interdict preventing occupation of the land.
Ms Limberg said there has been a notable spike in attempted land invasions over the course of the past few weeks. Recent attempted land invasions of both public and private land have occurred in Mfuleni, Makhaza, Gugulethu, Philippi, Bloekombos, and Dunoon, among other areas.
“The City will act within its mandate to prevent illegal land invasions,” she said.