Backyarders find shelter in tent after shacks destroyed

Families living inside the cold tent.

Tensions ran high as residents of Nkandla informal settlement in Mfuleni gathered outside the tent they moved into after law enforcement officials dismantled their shacks and confiscated their materials.

Community activist Luvuyo Hebhe said more than 80 people had been left without homes.

Many of them had been backyarders, who had been evicted by their landlords, after they had lost their jobs and had been unable to pay their rent because of lockdown.

People had started moving onto the land at the beginning of July and when their shacks were demolished people contributed R50 towards the costs of a tent for them to sleep in.

“When most of these people lost their jobs, they were chased away from where they were renting and moved here, but law enforcement came and demolished everything that belonged to them three times before they decided to stay in this tent,” Mr Hebhe said.

When Vukani visited the area on Tuesday August 11, a large group of young men had gathered where some of their shacks had been, while the three community activists addressed them about the way forward.

One of these community activists, Yongama Folose, said some residents, who were from different families, had been living in the tent for the past month.

Some of them, he added, slept outside because space was limited and because the men wanted to protect the women and children who slept inside the tent.

“We don’t understand why law enforcement doesn’t want us here because we fought for this vacant land in 2014 and our municipality granted us the land. The City of Cape Town issued us with an interim court order, to appear in court this coming Friday.”

He said occupying land was not an easy choice to make as it meant living without toilets, electricity and other basic needs.

Added to this, said Mr Hebhe, the Covid-19 pandemic made it more of a health hazard for them to be living without basic facilities.

Luthando Tyhalibongo, spokesperson, City of Cape Town, said the City was looking into this matter.

However, he said, “in general it must be noted it is illegal to occupy land that does not belong to you and those charging others to stay on land that they are not the owner of are guilty of an illegal act”.