Hall residents still waiting for help five years later

The residents have occupied the community hall after they shacks were demolished.

It has been nearly five years since some Gugulethu residents occupied Luyolo Recreation Centre seeking refuge after their shacks were demolished by law enforcement officers as they were illegally occupying vacant land.

They claimed that after the law enforcement agencies confiscated their building materials they were left homeless, penniless and some were already jobless and had no choice but to settle in the community hall.

The residents said the hall, which on average holds 100 displaced people, is nothing but a dry shelter where they are forced to spend their days staring at the vast walls, reliving the day they lost all their personal belongings.

When Vukani visited the hall, beds were neatly placed but toilets were not working properly due to a leak.

Residents Zoliswa Dlakavu told Vukani they had occupied an open space in their community towards the end of 2017 for various reasons as some were no longer able to keep up with their monthly rent while others wanted to have their own places they could call their home. For a year they lived happily and others started building their families.

However, towards the end of 2018 things turned sour when their homes were destroyed by authorities.

Many could not go back to their rented accommodation while others were in financial difficulties.

Therefore, they had no other alternatives but seek refuge in the community hall with the hope that the government would help.

But she said their plight and impassioned plea for help has fallen on deaf ears.

“Living at the community hall is making me sick. There are a lot of people there and many are coughing; it is just not right.

“There is no privacy here. This is not a place where people can live.

“If I had money I would have bought myself a shack in a recognised informal settlement and live there simply. But I do not have the means to do so. We are just hoping that one day someone would hear about us and do something because we no longer have faith in our leadership. We have been living here for almost five years and there is no sign that we are going to be assisted,” she said.

Ward councillor Bongani Ngcombolo said he is aware of these residents living at the hall.

He said he has raised this matter with the relevant authorities on several occasions and nothing seemed to be done.

He said as the ward councillor he has minimum powers to provide a way forward and he has almost exhausted all avenues with the City.

Mayoral committee member for community services and health, Patricia van der Ross, said the department is aware of the illegal occupation of Luyolo Recreation Centre in Gugulethu by individuals. The property belongs to the city and is under the management of the recreation and parks department.

“The facility was built for sport and recreation purposes in accordance with the needs of the broader community.

“The building was never intended for domestic occupation and has been vandalised beyond repair. The long-term impact of this illegal occupation is also both exorbitant in terms of cost and prohibitive in terms of usage,” she said.

An eviction application process has been initiated by the department.