Land grab stand-off in Mfuleni

Community leader Athenkosi Sonandi pleaded with the City to allow people to rebuild their structures because they are homeless.

Mfuleni land grabbers say they have sleepless nights out in the cold with law enforcement assaulting them on a daily basis when they put up their structures.

The group, who has occupied a parcel of land behind Nyakathisa informal settlement, said since June 18, when they erected their structures on the vacant land, they have been subjected to assault and at times shooting with live ammunition and rubber bullets.

Their structures were demolished and the material taken away but they returned to the land.

One of the community leaders, Athenkosi Sonandi, said the City of Cape Town is refusing them the land. He said the families who are occupying the land cannot afford to pay rent.

The group told Vukani they will not move because they have nowhere to go.

Mr Sonandi said they are trying to convince the relevant government structures to help them with a place to erect their shacks. He said their material have been confiscated a few times.

“We are pleading with the government to understand our situation. We are not here because we like it but because we are desperate for a place to live. There is no way we would leave ‘comfortable places’ to come put up structures here, in winter,” he said.

He said negotiations are under way to get their material back.

He said in the meantime, they all sleep in one big shack that was not destroyed.

“We are cramped here day and night. When the rain comes, this is the only harbouring place we have,” he said.

Khuthala Nondwayi said the past weeks have been a nightmare. When asked why can’t they go back to where they were, she said a lack of money is the problem.

She said they have been assaulted, shot at but they are going nowhere because they have no place to go to. Like Mr Sonandi, she said they didn’t land simply because they have “nothing to do” but because they are desperate for a place to stay.

“We are in a predicament where we do not know where to go and what to do to have a place to live. Now that we are in level 3, the landlords want their money.

“I must say most have been lenient to us. Some are even bringing us food here. But we are also using our social grants to feed ourselves here,” she said.

Ms Nondwayi’s worry now is the opening of schools. She said some of their clothes and that of their children were taken away with their building materials.

“Our children have nothing to wear because their clothes were taken together with the material. Children are going back to school, they will have no clothes and no place to call home,” she said.

Some of the residents tried to rebuild their shacks while Vukani was there with children lending a helping hand.

The residents have named the place Zwelethu (our country) for they believe this is their land of birth and should be free to have a place to stay.

Malusi Booi, the City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for human settlements, said the affected individuals may only collect their material once an appointment has been made.

He said people cannot arrive at depots without making the necessary appointments, as the City needs to adhere to Covid-19 regulations to protect the affected individuals and the staff.

“Materials won’t be issued without appointments. The City law enforcement officials removed unoccupied and unfinished structures in the area over the weekend. We cannot allow land invasions because these actions are illegal and consequently have an impact on service delivery to other residents, “ he said.

Mr Booi said the South African law allows the City to prevent illegal land invasions.

He added that people may not occupy land that is not theirs and where permission has not been received from the owner. “It must be made clear, land invasions are illegal and the City will confiscate materials that are used to attempt to invade land. In addition, if residents pay people for land that is on private property or City-owned, it is not legal. That person could end up losing the money paid as well because it is an illegal transaction,” said Mr Booi.

He said illegally occupied land often is a flood and fire risk and brings more misery to residents. He said it can also not be serviced at the expense of other areas that have been waiting for longer.

Mr Booi also said it was illegal to evict tenants without an eviction order and it is illegal to do so during lockdown in accordance with Covid-19 regulations. He said the arrangement is nothing to do with the City, it is between the landlord and tenant.

Wayne Dyason, law enforcement spokesperson, said the City law enforcement protect City staff while performing their official duties. The crowd in most instances respond violently and officers have to fire rubber rounds to restore order. He said if there are any issues around that, people are encouraged to report it to the SAPS and lay charges so it can be investigated by them.

The individuals may contact the City’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit’s Ndabeni office on 021 444 0092 during office hours to make appointments to collect their material.