Cape Town - Nearly 40 years ago, thousands of “illegal” squatters from Modderdam, Unibel and Werkgenot were left homeless when their shacks were bulldozed by the apartheid state.
On Wednesday, about 300 of them marched on Parliament to claim financial compensation for the land they lost.
Clutching walking sticks and knobkieries, gogos and grandpas from Nyanga, Khayelitsha and Philippi limped from Keizersgracht to Parliament. They stopped at certain points along the route to catch their breath; many sang as they marched.
In 1977, over 26 000 people lost their homes in Modderdam, Unibel and Werkgenot after the then department of community development ordered that the settlements be razed. The following year, state wrath spread to Crossroads where more shacks were demolished.
Early last year, the pensioners approached the Land Claims Commission office in Mowbray asking to be compensated for the homes they had lost, but they were told they needed to provide dompasses, old rent cards or receipts as proof, and pay R70 in application fees.
Nonegete Ngobana, 75, said she had been arrested when her home was bulldozed by police in Modderdam.
“I want that money - it is our right to have it. Why all of a sudden are we being told to bring dompasses when they know the passes were lost during those evictions?”
Mhlangenqaba Rhasmeni, 90, said they had no rent cards to give officials because they were squatters. “Where are we going to get rent cards? We were not renting there and we don’t have dompasses because we were not born here.”
Rhasmeni was forcefully moved from Unibel and moved to Crossroads, in those days a sprawling squatter camp forever under threat. His home there was also demolished, and his wife was shot by police during the evictions. He now lives in Philippi.
He said: “We are here to pressure Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwiniti to give us our money and stop asking for documents which he knows we cannot provide… Why are they treating us like savages now that they have our votes? This is not what we were promised.”
The pensioners claimed that last November they had been promised they would be paid compensation, but they were unclear who had made the promises.
A partially blind Ntombekhaya Magadla, 64, from Khayelitsha, who used to live in Crossroads, said politicians had made “fools” of them. “We are old and we do not have time to play around here. We have left our medications at our homes for this.”
The pensioners’ memorandum was received by the minister’s chief of staff, Errol Heynes. Heynes said: “I doubt that dom-passes and rent cards are needed; it’s just the identity document needed.”
The pensioners gave Heynes a fortnight to respond.