Sandile informal settlement shacks stand squeezed between an active railway line, Transnet hostels and formal houses. Mthuthuzeli Ntseku
Cape Town - Tensions are brewing between the residents of Khwezi hostel and the people of Sandile, in Langa, over water and sanitation issues.

Sandile, a newly established informal settlement squeezed between an active railway line, Transnet hostels and formal houses in an area called Backstage, is home to about 600 families. They have illegally invaded the land that has no water or sanitation services. According to the hostel dwellers, water and sanitation services have been under pressure since the establishment of the informal settlement.

“These people use our taps and toilets, as a result our (mobile) toilets get full before time,” said one of the residents, who is too afraid to be named.

“These shacks behind this hostel are the result of a group of people from inside this hostel who decided to invade that piece of land. They sell plots to people coming from other townships. Plots of about 4m are being sold for R2500 or more, depending on the size,” she said.

A hostel committee member said most of those who have invaded the land have either bought the plots or are renting. People from as far as from Khayelitsha and Dunoon, backyard dwellers from other zones in Langa plus a few foreigners have made the area their home. “Those people invaded that land and are staying there at their own risk,” she said.

The hostel committee decided to shut their outside taps.

“This decision came after we received a complaint from Transnet about the increasing water bill. The taps were to be shut off on April 1 as a measure to save water, but that has not happened,” she said.

Vuyeka Mgali, a resident of the hostel for the past 16 years, said that they had never struggled with overflowing toilets in the past.

“This is the first time that this is happening. Ever since I arrived here we never had full toilets,” she said.

Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott said the land grab was not only illegal but also dangerous.

“The close proximity of dwellings to the operational railway tracks compromises safe train operations and places the illegal dwellers at risk, she said.

A councillor for the area, Nomtha Dilima, said that although land invasions were illegal, there was nothing the municipality could do as the land was privately owned.

“People are expressing their need for housing,” said Dilima.

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