Residents grab open land at Philippi station

Right: Resident Nomvuyiso Sogagana sips a cup of coffee in her new home.

Expensive monthly rent and unemployment are among the reasons which have propelled a group of residents to illegally occupy a small piece of vacant land next to the railway tracks at Philippi station.

Residents from Samora Machel, Philippi, and other nearby areas starting erecting shacks there from towards the end of last year.

When Vukani arrived on Tuesday January 22, some residents were hard at work putting up more shacks while others were carrying building material.

Resident Nomvuyiso Sogagana said she decided to occupy the space because her husband was the only one working and could no longer afford to pay rent.

The 45-year-old said she knew that the area has no water and electricity but she had no choice.

Ms Sogagana has been staying in the area for almost a month now and hopes they will be placed in a decent home.

She said many landlords were charging them high rent and if one fails to pay they were immediately kicked out.

Ms Sogagana said normal landlords charge R450 if you have your own shack but if you don’t it costs an additional R100.

She said they were also required to fork out R150 monthly for electricity.

She said her family came close to being kicked out many times but were saved through the grace of God.

Ms Sogagana said she did not care about the other services as much as she knew that they were important but what she wanted was to live in a place she could call her own.

“I call on the government to find us a decent place to live. I always fear that one day our homes will be demolished. I know that this places is not conducive for living but I had no other choice.

“When you are renting you don’t have complete freedom to do what you want because that is not your place. Landlords are rude and mean. I just want a place to erect my shack and live happily,” she said.

She called on the government to speed up service delivery and put the needs of the people first.

Ms Sogagana said her name is on the housing list.

Communication officer for Metrorail, Riana Scott, said Ilegal informal dwellings in the rail reserve is a long standing concern. This particular site, she said, was the old Philippi depot which is earmarked for an upgrade.

She said the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) has previously relocated people to elsewhere in Khayelitsha.

But she pointed out that experience has shown that such relocation was a difficult process reliant on engagement with community leaders and the provision of alternative serviced land. To that end, Ms Scott said the situation has been raised and discussed in various structures within the City.

Another resident, Jali Joja, said he had been renting for 19 years and had never registered for a house.

He said he lives with his wife and one child and was the bread winner, surviving off piece jobs.

He said he had erected his shack a week ago but lived in fear that their houses might be demolished. They also battled for water, toilets and electricity.

He said they had to fetch water from nearby areas and also beg to use toilets there.

He said he hopes the government will give them a decent place to erect their shack.

The City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for human settlements, Malusi Booi, said he visited the site yesterday, Wednesday, and has offered to help Prasa.

“The City has therefore offered to assist with the dismantling and removal of the unoccupied structures due to the immediate health and safety concerns that exist.

“Although we absolutely understand the acute need for housing opportunities amid great demand and space constraints, we must also consider the health and safety aspects that could affect our residents.

“Housing delivery must also continue to happen in a fair and structured way to ensure that there is no queue jumping.

“Nobody is allowed to occupy or invade land without the consent of the owner.”