Cape Town - Human settlements officials visited Lwandle in Cape Town on Wednesday where over 200 illegal shacks were recently demolished, a city councillor said.
“We met this afternoon with a delegate from the office of the minister (Lindiwe Sisulu). She wanted to know what happened yesterday (Tuesday) because she was not here,” said local councillor Mbuyiselo Matha.
He escorted the team to the site where shacks were burned and demolished on Monday and Tuesday.
Sisulu had been expected to visit evicted residents at the Nonzamo community hall in Strand, where her transport counterpart, Dipuo Peters, had addressed residents on Tuesday night.
She earlier announced she would set up an inquiry to investigate the removal of people authorised by the Western Cape High Court and implemented this week.
She was expected to appoint a chair for the inquiry before Sunday.
The SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral), the owner of the land, was granted an eviction order by the high court earlier this year.
On Wednesday, the transport department said the evictions should be put on hold.
“Minister Peters undertook to issue a directive to Sanral to withdraw the court order while short- and long-term solutions are sought to resolve the challenges at hand,” spokesman Tiyani Ponto-Rikhotso said in a statement.
“To this effect, the affected families would be allowed to return to the land they were evicted from pending discussions regarding long-term solutions to their challenges.”
Sisulu said in a statement that while the people would be allowed to settle temporarily, government did not encourage illegal occupation of land.
“We must be very clear, we do not encourage illegal occupation of land, it is the inhumane way in which children and women are being removed during winter that we are concerned about. The people will have to move out of the land when necessary arrangements are made,” she said.
Matha said allowing people to return to the land was an interim solution and that after six months, the city, Sanral, and the national government would have to come up with something more sustainable.
Around 300 people, mostly women, huddled under blankets and chatted in the hall while their children bounced across the floor on multicoloured rubber balls with handles, screeching with delight.
Some men gathered in a circle around a table to play a board game.
They would only be accommodated and fed at the hall until Sunday.
“People were promised that their (building) material is going to be stored somewhere and that they'll get it back but we know that it is badly damaged. They can't use the same material,” Matha said.
He said they would ask for an extension to stay at the hall should they not get building material in time. A committee had been set up to meet with Sanral and the city over this issue.
Loyiso Nkohla, a leader of the Ses'khona People's Rights Movement, visited the hall and listened to their grievances.
He said it was clear people had not refused to move from the land but had simply been waiting to hear where they would receive alternative accommodation.
He thanked Peters for personally making a turn at the community hall.
On Sisulu, he said: “We don't want ministers sending their delegation. When they are appointed as ministers they must go to the places where the problems are so they can help our people and not just make promises”.
For 37-year-old Nomfondu Mdingi, her daughter, and four-year-old grandchild, the evictions cost her a home, her possessions, and possibly even her job.
She said she saw police confiscating suitcases and even money off people during the past two days.
“They burnt our shack and took food, clothes, and even my grandchild's school uniform.”
Mdingi, who works as a fryer at a fast food joint in Strand, said she phoned her boss to explain why she would not be at work.
“I called my boss and said we are in trouble but she didn't believe me,” she said.
Mdingi would find out later on Wednesday whether she still had a job.
“I'm worried because I'm homeless.”
Thembakazi Qhubinkomo, 33, was in the same predicament.
Wearing her work outfit underneath a warm coat, she said she was angry and sad that everything had been taken away from her.
Her employers had asked for proof of her shack being destroyed and she had to take a cellphone photo of the remains.
She said Sanral had warned them about the evictions but had not told them when it would happen.
“We didn't know when so we just left our stuff and when we came back nothing was there.”
Qhubinkomo had moved to the piece of land three months earlier because she had been staying with family in Zola and wanted her own home.
Her four children - aged 15, 11, two, and eight months old - were still with her mother in the Eastern Cape.
“You can't stay with children in a shack because it's cold and it can be burned at anytime,” she said.