Cape Town -
More than 1 000 people were left homeless and five were arrested when the City’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit demolished shacks in the two-month-old Siyanyanzela informal settlement in Strand on Monday.
This happened after members of the Economic Freedom Fighters allegedly told people they should erect shacks on open land belonging to the South African National Road Agency (Sanral).
Residents said EFF members told them they should go ahead and build their shacks on the land two months ago. The residents were shocked yesterday when the Anti-Land Invasion Unit, backed up by police, tore them down on Monday.
Vuyelwa Mgodlo said: “This is not fair. Leaders said we can build the shacks and the ward councillor, Mbuyiselo Matha, is aware of these shacks.”
The mother of five said she had lost all the building material she bought last week for R1 800. “I’m stuck here, I don't know where to go now, my children are at school and they do not know about this.
“The city knows we don’t have places to stay, why are they chasing us away?”
Resident Wendy Mhaga, 23, who was staying with her mother when the Anti-Land Invasion Unit arrived, said a neighbour called her early on Monday to say police were searching her home.
“When I got home police were already searching through my things. They said we could only take the things that were in the house and not the material that I used to build my bungalow, which costs R2 500. We just watched as they crushed our homes,” said Mhaga.
She said councillor Matha met residents just a few days ago but he did not tell them that Sanral had obtained a court order for their eviction. The first they knew of this was when the authorities arrived on Monday.
Matha said allegations that he had allowed residents to build houses on the land were untrue. He knew the land was privately owned.
“I can never ask people to go and build on private land. Those people from the various informal settlements have been on the waiting list for 16 years and were promised that houses were going up after 2007, but it did not happen.
Matha said that residents were also promised Sanral land along the N2 in the Helderberg region. But after negotiations broke down between the road agency and the City of Cape Town following the e-toll saga, he said residents were “forced” to occupy the land in Strand illegally.
Mcebisi Maxhwele, whose also lost his shack, said he could not afford to pay a backyard rent of R300 a month and was happy when the EFF said he could build a shack on the site.
Maxhwele said he understood the city had given permission for them to build on the land. “For six years I’ve been paying rent after my RDP house was sold by some of the leaders. At least I managed to escape with my things but it’s painful because I bought new materials.”
ANC leaders in the area said people had been misled by EFF members. ANC branch chairman Simthembile Mfecane said he told residents not to build shacks on the site, because he knew it was owned by Sanral.
But EFF leader Mphathisi Tshitu said residents needed a place to live and the space was open. Most people could not afford to pay rent.