Residents demand housing land

Anele Gabuza examines the damage after his office was burnt.

Violence and chaos erupted at Endlovini informal settlement, in Khayelitsha, when a group of residents set fire to the office of ward councillor Anele Gabuza and a youth centre, demanding land to build their shacks on.

On Sunday August 20, the residents ran amok, vandalising the City of Cape Town Registration Centre and pelting a Golden Arrow bus with stones. They also stoned Mr Gabuza’s home and a three-roomed shack belonging to one of the community leaders.

The riot followed a decision by the City’s law enforcement unit to destroy shacks which had been illegally erected on vacant land in the area.

Golden Arrow Bus Services spokeperson Bronwen Dyke- Beyer, confirmed that a bus had been stoned by the residents and that the driver had been traumatised by the incident.

Residents accused Mr Gabuza of ignoring their concerns, pointing out that some of them were backyarders who could no longer afford rental, while others claimed they were victimised by their landlords.

They said the land they wanted was currently being used for criminal activities.

A visibly shaken Mr Gabuza told Vukani that he had met with the residents last week and informed them that the land belonged to the City.

He said he had requested the number and the particulars of the backyarders so that he could give this information to the City.

Mr Gabuza said he was shocked when his office was set alight. He added that he had also been informed that residents were on their way to his house, where they stoned his windows.

They also wanted to burn his car, but police arrived in time to disperse the crowd before they could do so.

“Chairs, a printer and the bicycle which I had just bought for neighbourhood watch members were stolen. All the important documents about the ward and branch were burnt.

“The youth centre was renovated three years ago at cost of nearly R4 million but now it is gone down the drain. The money that will be spent to rebuild these buildings should have been used to do something else,” he said.

Mr Gabuza said while he understood residents’ anger and frustration, he urged them not to resort to violence when voicing their complaints, but rather to make use of the proper channels.

He said he had reported the matter to the Harare police station.

When Vukani visited the area the following day, the residents were rebuilding their shacks and vowed that they would continue occupying the land.

Zamikhaya Daniso said he had been renting a three-room shack in the area and was no longer able to pay the monthly rent as he was not working and the only source of income was his disability grant and social grant.

The 45-year-old father of three said he had been given a notice by the owner of the house to move out in December – which is why he opted to build a shack on the land.

Mayoral committee member for area east, Anda Ntsodo, cnfirmed that 91 illegally erected structures had been removed, 61 of which were complete and vacant structures and 30, partly built.

He said the City condemned land invasions and the incitement to invade City-, State- or privately-owned land “in the strongest possible terms”.

“We empathise with the plight of our residents but we simply cannot allow the illegal invasion of land. Invaded land becomes a fire-, flood- and health-risk and it makes the provision of basic and emergency services almost impossible in some cases. Nobody is allowed to occupy or invade land without permission or consent of the owner,” he said.