Land occupiers voice desperation over ‘threats and intimidation’

Knoflokskraal residents say they were attacked and intimidated with further demolitions of their structures earlier this week. Picture SUPPLIED

Knoflokskraal residents say they were attacked and intimidated with further demolitions of their structures earlier this week. Picture SUPPLIED

Published Feb 4, 2023


Cape Town – The Khoisan community claiming to be the original land owners of Knoflokskraal in Grabouw and Klutjieskraal in Wolseley, say government is pushing them beyond their limits with illegal evictions and threats.

They spoke following a reported attack by security members deployed at the Knoflokskraal, who allegedly ordered a resident to vacate his home after he attempted to expand his property, last month. They said the security team was accompanied by police officers and that after failing to give the residents a court order for the eviction, they allegedly destroyed the extended structure and told them they would be back to order them to leave their homes.

The two informal settlements were allegedly established two years ago when many say they lost their incomes and could not afford to pay rent anymore and invaded unoccupied land. The two pieces of land belong to the National Department of Public Works, and there have allegedly been illegal evictions ever since.

“We can’t live like this anymore. These people do as they please to us any time they want, threatening to destroy our homes. We fought this battle last year and just when we thought it is over they come again. If it wasn’t for the community I would be homeless. Our only defence was to demand the court order of which they couldn’t provide. We want the the municipality and the department of public works to stop this. We are not criminals, we can’t live in fear every day of our lives,” said Adnaan Backett, 58.

Patricia de Lille, Minister of the national Department of Public Works and Infrastructure said: “The occupants were restricted from building new structures on the properties as per the Containment Order that is currently in place.”

Provincial police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Malcolm Pojie confirmed that police attended to the matter.

The incident angered the Khoisan community as the Klutjieskraal dwellers, who witnessed homes destroyed until January 28, recalled how the disabled and sick Christopher Steyn, 60 , was left homeless in December 2022, when structures were illegally destroyed without a court interdict. The community opened cases with police against the law enforcement security company, which they say, was in vain.

"I couldn’t believe it when I heard they attacked residents again in Knoflokskraal. Our case is not resolved yet, there’s been no feedback and my fear is that if they do it that side, they usually come for us too. The communities were started almost at the same time and it’s no secret that they’re being targeted. But where must we go if they don’t give us land. As sick and disabled as I am, I’ll defend my rights to be on this land if I have to. Our people, all over the country are victims but yet are not provided with basic needs, where must they live? Government must stop these evictions,“ Steyn said.

Pojie confirmed that Wolseley Police are investigating cases of malicious damage to property.

He said police are tasked with safeguarding the sheriff of the court and are not involved in the demolition of any structures, "nor the intimidation of such. The local authority usually appoints a company to execute the demolition of illegal structures as per court order or interdict."

Meanwhile, Andy Wynard, community leader at the Knoflokskraal insettlement said authorities were quick to respond and attack people but disregard important issues such as service delivery. He said public works needed to grant permits to the municipalities to provide services instead of fighting them over the land.

“Give dignity to the people, don’t victimise them. Our youth is tired of this…We don't want to protest or be violent,” he said.

“We can't have this in our country, our soil and our inheritance,” concluded Yulanda Wakefield, the chairperson of the Klutjieskraal Core Group, saying in last month alone, about eight homes were demolished with the last incident on January 28.

De Lille said there was no eviction order against the said properties. She said the future of the property has not yet been determined since the lease with the department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment expired.

However, comment on service delivery issues she said: “It is the responsibility of the local and provincial government to provide basic services and should the DPWI be approached to give permission to supply services on that land, we will consider it.”

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