Grief and anger were etched into the faces of backyarders from Section 35, in Harare, when their illegal shacks were demolished by the City of Cape Town’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit.
The residents illegally moved on to a vacant piece of land, opposite KwaMfundo High School, in the early hours on Friday May 5. But the City’s law enforcement officers swiftly moved in to demolish the structures.
When Vukani arrived at the site, residents were collecting their damaged material. Uncertainty reigned with some not sure where to go to. They claimed that the land had been used as a dumping site and a hide-out for criminals.
They told Vukani that they had written a number of letters to their ward councillor, Anele Gabuza, requesting a meeting to inform him of their plans to use the land. However, their attempts had been futile.
Some of the backyarders said they had lived on that land for four years and accused the councillor of failing to address some of their service delivery issues.
Resident Bongani Khungeka said he had lived on the site for two years. Before, he had lived as a backyarder, and because he battled to pay his monthly rental, he opted to move to the land.
Mr Khungeka said all his home contents had been damaged in the battle with law enforcement. “I have nowhere to sleep or stay,” he said. “I just don’t know what to do now. Our councillor has failed us.”
Community leader Funyanwa Sobethwa said community leaders had approved the building of the shacks. Ms Sobethwa said many of these people had struggled to pay their rent and wanted to live there only until they had found long-term accommodation.
“We have written three letters to the councillor but he has never responded to any of them. For the past three months he has ignored us. Even when our people want to use the services of his offices we are sidelined,” she said.
But Mr Gabuza has denied claims that he ignored them, arguing that he had only received letters about assisting the community to elect community leaders. “I don’t have land, I can’t tell people to build their shacks on that land. The land belongs to the City.
“I met with the residents on Saturday to explain this and next week we will have another meeting with them and City of Cape Town officials to find an amicable solution,” he said.
Mayoral committee member for area east, Anda Ntsodo, confirmed to Vukani that the Anti-Land Invasion Unit had dismantled 16 structures.
He said all the structures had been vacant and no authority or permission to build had been granted.
“The City sympathises with the plight of our vulnerable residents, but we cannot allow people to invade land illegally, as this can impede delivery of key infrastructure, prevent access to underground services for maintenance purposes, affect the effectiveness of firebreaks, or undermine future housing delivery, depending on the circumstances,” he said.