Cape Town - Nomzamo residents, who have been cooped up at the local community hall since being evicted on Monday, would rather brave winter rains inside their own shacks than spend another day where they are.
This was the sentiment expressed by a number of residents who spoke to the Cape Argus on Thursday.
“I cannot wait to get out of here,” said Mapaseku Motsieloa, a mother whose seven-year-old boy, Tsekiso, has taken ill since moving to the hall. As she cradled him, she pointed to his pyjama pants.
“We lost everything. These are the clothes that he was wearing when we were kicked out on Monday. The conditions here, now… it’s not safe for children.”
Images of riot police violently evicting shackdwellers from a tract of land owned by the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) went viral on Monday.
Reports of families being left homeless, as the coldest spell of the year gripped the Cape contributed to a national outcry over the evictions.
In response, Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu announced on Thursday that Sanral land had been earmarked for relocating the evicted residents. This led to a flurry of activity at the hall.
As children played with donated toys, the adults formed quiet and disciplined queues. At the front of these, volunteers for the Nomzamo Residents Committee took down the names and identity numbers of occupants for each of the evicted shacks. Meanwhile, heated discussions broke out between committee volunteers and their fellow residents.
“They see us organising and come to us for answers because they assume we know something,” said organiser Vuyiswa Swentu, who also lost all of her possessions during the evictions.
“Yet we are in the same boat as them. I help to organise because my community needs me. I know I have the strength to do it. We have been promised building material, so it is important we make a list of everyone affected.”
Western Cape MEC for Human Settlements Bonginkosi Madikizela welcomed the willingness of the community to co-operate and assist with the logistics ahead of relocation.
“Certainly, such a list will be of great use. We have arranged with the City of Cape Town for 235 emergency building kits to be made available.”
After a week of bickering and blame apportioning for the debacle of Monday’s evictions between various levels of government departments, Madikizela viewed the co-operation between national, provincial and local government and the assistance from the community in a positive light.
“Now is not the time for fighting anymore,” he said. “This is an emergency, and all stakeholders have to to put their differences aside to ensure that the evicted residents find adequate alternative accommodation.”
Once this had been achieved, Madikizela stressed the importance of the national Department of Human Settlement’s probe into the evictions. He agreed with Sisulu, who earlier this week called the evictions “inhumane”.
“How did it go so wrong?” he asked. “It seems that negotiations between the city and Sanral broke down hopelessly, leading to alternative arrangements for accommodating the residents not being made. This scenario could certainly have been avoided, and we need to interrogate why negotiations broke down.”
Yet, displaced residents at Nomzamo hall on Thursday were less concerned about the lack of alternative land for relocation than they were about the possessions that they had lost during the evictions.
Nomvuyo Mhlonyane, who moved into a shack with her husband and two boys aged six and one in January, still wears the key to her shack door around her neck.
“This is all I have left. I paid R4 000 for that shack in January. My bed, my fridge, my ID, my television, my wardrobe. It’s all gone. That must have been worth another R15 000. So, now they will relocate us. For that we are grateful because we want to pick up with our lives again. But what of everything that we have lost? Those things we will never see again.”