Cape Town - A sleepless night on the floor in a two-bedroom house she shares with nine of her family members led Nontando Bambani to participate in a violent protest in Langa on Tuesday.
Bambani was one of 100 backyarders who vented their anger, demanding that they should be beneficiaries in a new housing project in Langa.
On Tuesday, the City’s mayoral committee member for human settlements, Benedicta van Minnen, said they would not be “bullied by thugs” that have no regard for the best interests of the broader community of Langa.
She claimed the protesters were a group of youths. However, the Cape Times noticed that Tuesday’s protesters were mostly adult men and women.
People have been protesting since last Monday. Langa backyarders have burnt tyres and thrown rubbish in Bhunga Avenue, blocking several roads hoping that the City would include them on the list of beneficiaries for 463 houses being built in the area.
On Tuesday an office of the City’s disaster risk management was damaged by the protesters and three people were arrested for public violence.
Construction and allocation to beneficiaries was suspended due to the ongoing protest.
Bambani, 46, who lives with her two children and seven relatives, said she had hoped she would own one of the two-bedroom houses which also has a lounge, kitchen and bathroom.
She said her dreams were dashed when the City did not include backyarders on the beneficiary list.
She described her current living conditions as unbearable, tough and a humiliation.
“There is no privacy. Women and men have to undress in full view of each other, it’s pathetic.”
She said she has been on the housing database demand since 1999 and she has been bypassed in the last three housing developments in Langa.
“Patience has not taken me anywhere and this time I am not backing down until I am recognised as someone who deserves a house.”
Vusumzi Mandindi, spokesperson for Sivukile Sonele, the organisation representing the backyarders, said backyarders protested only after the City failed to honour a meeting on Monday afternoon, where it was expected that an amicable solution would be reached.
“People want answers when they would be allocated houses,” said Mandindi.
Van Minnen said the allocation of the houses had been done in accordance with the national subsidy criteria, adding the 463 units is the first phase of more than 1 300 units to be built in the next five years. Backyarders will be accommodated in the project’s second phase.
She said the protest would have continued irrespective of the City’s attendance at Monday’s meeting.
“The City received an invitation at short notice,” said Van Minnen, adding that the City had notified the national human settlement department that the City would not be able to attend.
“The City requested (the protesters’) concerns to be sent in writing. The City has engaged in an open, transparent and bona fide manner,” she said. Police spokesperson Noloyiso Qwexana confirmed the three arrests