Land battle rages on

Residents look on as Metro police officers remove some of the objects placed to block the road as part of the ongoing land invasions in Khayelitsha.

Community leaders and the City of Cape Town are working around the clock to bring to an end the ongoing land grabs in and around Khayelitsha.

Since last Thursday, when the residents of Town Two and the neighbouring Makhaya tried to take over a piece of land next to Graceland and Town Two, the City’s law enforcement officers have been on high alert trying to quell the situation.

But their efforts have largely been in vain as the sporadic land grabs continued to spread to other parts of Khayelitsha, including Kuyasa.

Residents who claimed to be backyarders continued to clash with law enforcement agencies, including police, despite three interdicts obtained by the City against them.

Emotions continued to run high at the start of this week.

On Monday and Tuesday raging battles continued, forcing the authorities to confiscate some of the residents’ material.

However, yesterday Wednesday May 24, residents continued to clash with law enforcement and vowed to continue until their demands were met.

Among others, residents are demanding houses, saying there were large pieces vacant of land in Khayelitsha, while people continued to live in appalling conditions. The communities of Town Two and the nearby Makhaya, in Khayelitsha, have vowed to forcefully take over a piece of land situated between their area, Graceland, Ekuphumleni and the Khayelitsha Mall.

The land, which has been unused for many years, has been earmarked for housing by the Khayelitsha Community Trust (KCT).

However, it is unclear when construction would begin and residents said the vacant land had become a hunting ground for criminals.

During Thursday’s protest, angry residents from Town Two and Makhaya barricaded roads with burning tyres and other heavy objects.

Traffic on Steve Biko Drive was affected, but firefighters and Metro police were quick to arrive at the scene, bringing the situation under control and urging residents to open the roads.

Resident, Doctor Sishuba, said the field had been a problem for years. With the construction of the Khayelitsha Mall, he said, they had hoped that things would improve, however, an increasing number of people, including school pupils, were being targeted by criminals. “It would have been better if we had patrols on this field,” he said.

“But if we are to build houses here, this will come to an end.”

Another resident, Nozuko Mfanta, said the field was a danger to everyone, particularly women. She said residents had been patient with government but had been kept in the dark for a long time and continued to suffer.

She said their plan was to force government’s hand into providing houses, adding that backyarders suffered at the hands of their landlords and paid exorbitant amounts toward rent and electricity.

“We now need houses,” she said.

In an attempt to bring about stability and put an end to the land invasions, on Monday May 22, community leaders met with the Khayelitsha Development Forum (KDF), at the old Khayelitsha Training Centre to analyse the situation and its impact on community cohesion and unity.

The KDF believes that an addition to the current number of shacks in the area is not in keeping with the vision of a Khayelitsha of the future, where residents will live, work and play.

KDF chairperson Ndithini Tyhido said the land grabs were not helping the people of Khayelitsha and condemned the building of more shacks, saying Khayelitsha should not be a town of shacks.

“We cannot allow shacks to come up in any area now. This needs to come to an end. It should not be that any land must have shacks. We cannot be a town of shacks. All we need is proper houses in Khayelitsha.

“This thing will cause conflict and fights among Khayelitsha residents. We must work tirelessly to rid Khayelitsha of shacks. It is difficult to police the shacks. People who are in wheelchairs have it difficult to live in shacks,” he said.

Mr Tyhido said the struggle for houses was genuine and for everyone, but criticised community leaders for not discouraging the building of shacks. He said he was disappointed because the KDF expected to see local councillors giving leadership.

He said the invasions were depleting police resources and that police had to guard the land while criminals robbed people.

Councillor Monde Nqulwana said councillors were tired of being used by the government and that government should come forward and address the problem.

He said many people had been promised houses, but did not receive them.

“When it is nice people are promised this and that but when it is bad those people disappear. As councillors we sometimes use sticks that toss the meat we would not even eat. We are tired of being used.

“Those who have won the hearts of people with their manifestos must come address the people,” he said.

Chief executive officer of the KCT, Mkhululi Gaula, condemned the invasion of land. He said plans were under way to build houses on the 22-hectare site, but they had encountered some obstacles.

“Initially, the plan was to develop institutional subsidy housing units, but then the Graceland community objected to the RDP type of units next to their bonded settlement. We had to alter the business plan altogether.”