Chaos erupts over a vacant land in Mfuleni

Tempers flared on Thursday March 31, with disgruntled Mfuleni residents running amok, barricading roads and vandalising properties, in their quest to grab a vacant piece of land in their neighbourhood.

The disgruntled residents also vandalised Ward 108 councillor Themba Honono’s house and his luxury Audi A4, accusing him of failing to fast-track their move to a site, which they claimed had been identified for some backyarders many years ago.

They claimed that they were told there was no land for them to build their shacks on, despite there being plenty unused land in the area. They also attempted burn a community hall.

When Vukani visited the area on Friday April 1, the situation remained volatile. Concerned residents watched on as law enforcement officials destroyed some of their belongings.

Mfuleni police spokeswoman Captain Nomathemba Muavha, said in addition to the damage to Mr Honono’s house, a spaza shop and Bardale community hall had also been damaged.

She said six people between the ages of 17 and 29 were arrested. “Four are charged with arson and public violence and the other two with public violence,” she said. They all appeared at the Blue Downs Magistrates’ court on Monday April 4 and remain in police custody until their bail application which is scheduled for tomorrow, Friday April 8

Captain Muavha said most of the roads had been closed as a result of the protest.

Resident Siphiwo Zuzani said he had been living as a backyarder for more than six years. He said a database for backyarders was compiled to address the housing crisis, but he said, there were a number of people coming from other areas who erected their shacks on vacant land in their community.

“Im unemployed and I make a living through piece(meal) jobs, and every month Im expected to pay rent of R450. I also have to provide for my family and send my children to school. How will I do that if I’m renting?” he said.

Another angry resident, Thulile Basane, made an impassioned plea for a piece of land to build shack on. “We want a place to call our home. We dont care about electricity or water as long we have a place where we can build our shacks and raise our children,” he said, adding that he felt sad as his home had been one of those demolished by law enforcement officers. He claimed they were also constantly victimised by the landlords who turned off their electricity.

The residents have vowed to continue protesting and threatened not vote in the upcoming local government elections.

Thembakazi Honono, Mr Honono’s sister, said she received a call in the afternoon informing her that her brother’s house was being vandalised by the angry mob. On their arrival, she said, they found residents vandalising the house and some had stolen some of his possessions. “My brother was away when this occurred. They stole his TV, laptops and some of his clothes are missing. We managed to recover a fridge and a microwave even though they were wrecked,” she said. While Mr Honono refused to comment on the matter, he demanded that Vukani provide him with the names of those who had spoken to us.

Zalisile Mbali, spokesperson for Human Settlements MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela, told Vukani that the department was committed to engaging with residents about “genuine concerns”. He stressed that the government would not allow lawlessness.

“The land that was invaded belongs to the City of Cape Town and they condemn the actions of the residents,” said Mr Mbali.