Cape Town - Some despairing residents of the unlawful Siyanyanzela informal settlement in Lwandle opted to torch their own shacks rather than watch the authorities demolish them and confiscate their building materials.
Three people were arrested on Tuesday on the second day of a tense stand-off between law enforcement agencies and residents after stones were thrown at police, who responded with stun grenades and rubber bullets.
Seven people were arrested on Monday after clashes with police. They are due to appear in court on Wednesday.
Amid the chaos life went on.
Sitting on the plot where her shack once stood, Nomapheli Pupu, 43, prepared food for her eight children.
She cooked samp for the three youngest children who were at school, while her eldest cooked chicken feet at another fire a few metres away.
She said: “My children left for school this morning and my shack was still standing then. I am left with this pot, samp and the chicken feet.”
Pupu moved to Siyanyanzela four months ago, after a church she was living in was demolished in Lusapho.
More than 100 shacks have been demolished.
Children’s clothing, wet mattresses and damaged building materials were scattered about the site.
The mother of a six-month-old boy, Andiswa Nhlapo, said she was left with nothing after her shack went.
“I begged police to allow me time to save some food and clothing for my baby, but they refused.
Nhlapo said she spent most of Monday night hustling food for her son from neighbours. “I went around begging neighbours to at least feed him tea because he was very hungry.”
On Tuesday, she begged police to rather kill her and her child instead of taking their home.
“I have no one to help me and my child. What more do these people want from us?”
Nonelwa Poto cut a forlorn figure last night as she packed what she could in a plastic bag, heaved it on to her head and walked away from the ruins of her home, her child Niya sleeping on her back.
She stepped through the mud in the fierce north-westerly wind, explaining: “I have found somewhere for us to sleep tonight, not far away.”
But that was as far as her plans stretched.
On Tuesday unhappy residents resorted to using petrol bombs to burn their own structures. About eight shacks were torched.
Ward councillor Mbuyiselo Matha said people were frustrated because most of them were still paying off their building materials.
“People were promised that their material would be returned. So they think it’s best for them to burn their own homes than to let the material go to waste in the hands of authorities.”
Matha said on Tuesday he was still negotiating space for people to sleep.
The land belongs to the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) and is reserved for the rerouting of the N2. Sanral was granted an eviction order by the Western Cape High Court earlier this year.
The evictions have led to a blame game between the City of Cape Town and Sanral, with the national government and Cosatu weighing in.
Sanral has accused the city of walking away from discussions to find a solution to land in Siyanyanzela.
“This situation might not have arisen if the city had not walked away from the discussions with Sanral to find an amicable solution to the issue,” Sanral spokesman Vusi Mona said.
The city had abdicated responsibility towards residents of Lwandle, outside the Strand, he said.
“Despite the city’s efforts to put the blame on Sanral, the agency’s offer to donate land to Cape Town remains open. We call on the city to rescind its decision and restart the process to find a workable solution that will benefit the poor communities affected by recent events.”
But the city has hit back, calling on Sanral “to come clean on the facts”.
Siyabulela Mamkeli, the mayoral committee member for human settlements, said: “The city repeatedly warned Sanral to protect their land against the continual and new land invasions.
“They were advised by the city to purchase suitably sized land to accommodate the affected households. They have not done so.”
He said that the city had not objected to buying the Sanral-owned land for residents when it was discussed in 2011.
“It must be noted that Sanral’s statement, passing the buck to the city, is disingenuous.
“Their statement refers to historic occurrences and not to the new occupiers who have been affected by Sanral’s recent evictions. Sanral is evicting a new set of invaders.”
Mamkeli pleaded with Sanral to “stop this blame game and to put the needs of the residents first”.
The city would provide three community halls to house residents for one week only.
“We have a duty to protect the rights of those people who are on the housing waiting list. Therefore, if alternative accommodation in the form of a temporary relocation area was provided to the people who illegally invaded the Sanral land, we would in effect be rewarding queue-jumping at the expense of the rights of law-abiding residents.”
Transport spokesman Tiyani Ponto-Rikhotso said: “It is obvious that Sanral used the issue of toll roads in the Western Cape as an excuse to terminate discussions on the issue.”
Cosatu national spokesman Patrick Craven said Sanral’s actions were ruthless and inhumane.
“Families lost not only their homes but, what is worse, they weren’t offered alternative accommodation, but thrown on to the streets in the middle of winter,” he said.
Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has also entered the fray, saying the City of Cape Town and Sanral should have handled the evictions better.
“What we saw in the media, the information we gathered from the community, reports we received from Sanral and statements from the City of Cape Town leaves us with many unanswered questions,” she said in a statement on Wednesday.
“It is not possible that in the middle of a very cold Western Cape winter and rains and children writing exams the whole community can be removed in brutal force, that concerns me as the minister of human settlement, we are a caring government.”
Sisulu said an inquiry would be established to investigate all processes and procedures followed by all involved until the removal was authorised by the High Court and subsequently implemented this week.
Deputy Human Settlements Minister Zoe Kota and Transport Minister Dipuo Peters went to visit the scene of evictions.
They were briefed by the human settlements department in the Western Cape, Sanral and representatives of the community on Tuesday.
The department said that after a visit, Sisulu and Kota agreed that Sanral and the city could have handled the dispute and the whole relocation process differently.
The human settlements department said on Wednesday, that the ministers said that if the city and Sanral could not find a solution they should have gone to the provincial and national government for “mediation and guidance”.
Sisulu said that in consultation with Peters, the illegal occupiers will settle temporarily while government can assist to find a solution.
“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 concern about, the people will have to move out of the land when necessary arrangements are made,” Sisulu said.
Cape Argus and Sapa