Battle for empty plot sparks fear

Zakade Kwayi looks at the application he filled in for the use and ownership of the vacant land in Lower Crossroads.

The joy and a hope of owning a house is diminishing for Lower Crossroads pensioner Zakade Kwayi.

With the help of a local residents’ committee, Mr Kwayi, moved onto a vacant piece of land on the corner of Ngqwangi and Qhude streets a few years ago to start a church.

As someone who had never owned a house, he also hoped he could get himself a house.

The 67-year-old said the land had been used by another man before and he had been advised by some people in the community to move in when the previous tenant moved out.

He added that he had had to get a nod from local residents’ committee to stay on the plot.

Although he is not sure about the year in which he moved to the site, he maintains he had stayed on the plot for more than 10 years, during which time he has had to fend off numerous intruders.

He now fears that his dream could be shattered as more people set their sights on the land.

Mr Kwayi says he has done all he can to secure the land, but his efforts do not seem to be enough.

Added to this, the City of Cape Town says his name does not appear in its system as lessee of the land.

A visibly irritated Mr Kwayi said he had done everything by the book and urged the City to fast-track the process of deciding on the ownership of the plot.

He said he had been to the Fezeka municipal offices, in Gugulethu, to process the application.

He had also been to the City’s offices at the Civic Centre, in town, in an effort to get the plot.

Despite his ongoing efforts to secure the land Mr Kwayi accused some people of wanting to take ownership of the plot.

Without consulting him, he said, some people had erected structures on the land.

“I have fixed this plot and ensured services like water and electricity are available.

“When I moved here, I had to ask neighbours for water and electricity. And I lived peacefully until last year when someone moved in here,” said Mr Kwayi.

Mr Kwayi claimed people who wanted to move onto the plot verbally abused him.

He showed Vukani an incomplete application to the City for the use of the land, as well as a letter from the South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO) confirming his right to stay on the plot.

Mr Kwayi added that he is now regularly having to stop people from moving into the plot.

He said the first person moved in shortly after he took over the plot and since then more and more people have tried to put up their structures.

The most recent attempt was more than a month ago.

“I had to put my foot down. I am now worried that I could be killed at any given moment. Everyone’s eyes are on me. I am treated like a witch,” said Mr Kwayi. “My only hope is in God.”

Ward councillor Mboniswa Chitha said he was not aware of any agreement about the land because, often, local committees reach agreements with residents without the councillor’s involvement.

“These are decisions that are taken in conjunction with street committees. When people come to me I refer them to the council,” he said.

“When entering such agreements I encourage people to inform me so that when the council tries to evict them I can try to help them.”

Mayoral committee for assets and facility management, Stuart Diamond said the plot belonged to the City and that the City had no records for an application by Mr Kwayi to use the land.

“An application to acquire the property was received in August 2003 from Mr Babalwa Maqunga.

“At the time, the City responded that it cannot be sold to the applicant because it constitutes viable land and that it should be sold by public competition,” he said, adding that the occupation of the land by anyone was illegal.

Vukani was unable to get input from the residents’ committee.