Durban - Two eggs and a loaf of bread, that was all a mother and daughter had left to share this Christmas Eve just moments after city officials, armed with axes, came to demolish their homes on Monday.
Christina Lebelo tried desperately to rebuild her home, piece by piece, nail by nail, plank by plank – but the reality was that she and her 18-year-old daughter, Christiphora, spent the night sleeping in bushes on Monday night. And they may not have a home built in time for Christmas.
But Christina was scared: “It’s not safe for my daughter and me to sleep here, in the open, with all these boys around,” she said.
She would sleep in expectation that her belongings would be stolen by other dwellers.
Sihle Ncwane, 29, who had to find temporary accommodation in the settlement for his 2-week-old baby girl, Esihle, said he would not be attempting to fix his home because he did not have R500 to buy new building planks and boards for the walls of the house.
“They are abusing us. I’ve been living here for four months… they told us we must see for ourselves where we will live after they kicked us out of the area which received development, and I had been living there for 13 years, but then because I did not own the stand, I was told I have to leave,” he said.
He claimed his house had been demolished nine times in the four months he had been living there.
Some dwellers had left Durban for their rural homes when the demolitions took place and would return to the sorry site when they returned to the city.
Lebelo, a domestic worker in Sherwood, paid R3 000 for her wood and tin structure, which was taken down in minutes.
“I go to work in the morning, not knowing if I’m going to have a home to come back to. I’m tired of this. I don’t mind living in a mjondolo (shack) because I’m poor, but we build our homes and they keep tearing it down.”
Christiphora was home when the unit arrived and called her mother sobbing.
“I was crying because I was scared. My mom works hard to make me happy and this makes me sad,” the soft-spoken teen told the Daily News on Monday.
She said instead of returning to the Eastern Cape next month when the new school year begins, she may have to go back sooner now that she and her mom do not have a home. When asked how she planned on spending Christmas, Christiphora said: “I have to spend it here, this is home.”
The family would attend church on Christmas morning and come back to their site.
Christiphora will be in Grade 12 next year and attends Ralebitso High School in the Eastern Cape. She came home for the holidays.
The Lebelos were assisted by a good Samaritan, Vusimuzi Dladla, a neighbour.
He scouted the ground for pieces of wood and knocked the nails straight before placing them to form a structure.
Other women and children in the Cato Crest settlement were also preparing to sleep in the bushes on Monday night after their dwellings were demolished by city officials who say they will not tolerate newly built shacks.
They had their plank, cardboard and tin shacks demolished on Monday.
The settlement is situated in the bushes behind the West Ridge Secondary School in Mayville, and the suburb of Manor Gardens.
Noxolo Maphela was one of many women with hammer and nail in hand in the area. She, with a group of women, planned to sleep in the bushes last night because they feared the municipal workers would return on Tuesday to demolish more homes.
“They said they will return tomorrow (Tuesday) to demolish more of our homes, so because we do not want to be beaten with axes and guns, we have decided to let them do it, but tomorrow (Tuesday) (after they have left) we will start trying to rebuild our homes for our families,” she said.
“They say we are dirtying the suburbs, but they are far from us, the people in the houses don’t have a problem with us, they greet us and we respect them,” she said.
Men would guard the women and children sleeping in the bushes.
Xolani Mkhatshana had his furniture, stove, kettle, radio, television and coffee table broken during the demolitions.
Originally from eMatatiele in the Eastern Cape, Mkhatshana said he had nowhere to go and opted to build a new shack next to where his old one had crumbled.
“They did not say anything to anyone. I was standing away from my shack and I watched them break my door and enter my home – in seconds my shack was down as they butchered the supporting logs on the corners of the shack,” he said. He has been living rent-free in the settlement since June.
“I wanted to go home for Christmas but now I can’t because it’s not safe for me to leave my things here,” Mkhatshana said.