We’re being overlooked to prioritise Central Line dwellers - Kapteinsklip squatters

Kapteinsklip informal settlement dwellers claim to be overlooked even after pleading for basic services for many years. Picture: Leon Lestrade/ African News Agency/ ANA

Kapteinsklip informal settlement dwellers claim to be overlooked even after pleading for basic services for many years. Picture: Leon Lestrade/ African News Agency/ ANA

Published Sep 18, 2022


For more than a decade, residents of the Kapteinsklip informal settlement in Mitchells Plain have been hoping for proper housing in the area they call home.

Following the recent debate on the possible relocation of over 1 000 shack dwellers currently living along Metrorail’s Central Line train tracks to an area situated just 8kms away from the Kapteinsklip informal settlement, questions around the “prioritisation” of certain groupings who gets “rewarded” for illegal occupation have been raised.

The Housing Development Agency (HDA) and Passenger Railway Agency of South Africa (Prasa) have proposed the Central Line group be relocated to the Weltevreden Wedge at the Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA) in ward 43.

The phase one relocation will see occupants along the Langa railway reserve move to private land, much to the ire of numerous Mitchells Plain and neighbouring Strandfontein residents.

Occupiers of Kapteinsklip informal settlement, who once also squatted along the railway line, said they felt side-lined.

Isgak Abrahams said it would be unfair if Central Line dwellers received help before they did. Picture: Leon Lestrade/ African News Agency/ ANA

One of the residents, Isgak Abrahams, 59, said they felt like a forgotten community, having pleaded with the City for help and provision of services.

“We still do not have electricity and have to live (dependent on) fire. These very fires we use to survive have cost us everything when our houses go up in flames.

“Now we hear of this relocation where people will get housed, even if it's in shacks, there will be service delivery, something we have been (pleading for) for years.”

Abrahams said there would be “hell to pay” if they were overlooked when houses were allocated.

“It's not me being racist. Honestly, I am a comrade, so this is me feeling like we are being treated unfairly. Here are people who squatted on a piece of land just like we did, for less time, and they are getting helped already? It's just not right.”

Abrahams’ wife, Ilhaam, said even though they got an option to be housed in Blikkiesdorp years ago, they felt Mitchells Plain had been their home for years and did not want to pack up and leave.

“People will say that it was an opportunity, but imagine how those surrounding areas felt about outside settlements getting helped instead of their backyard dwellers or informal settlements?

“That was also meant to be a temporary place. Most of us decided against it because we are used to Mitchells Plain and feel comfortable in the area. We grew up here and know when things don’t go too well, we can go knock on a neighbour's door.

“And those who decided to move to Blikkiesdorp are all back here because the crime there was on another level. People didn't care about one another because nobody knew each other, so there was no respect.

“Even if you look at schools, some of the people had to move and place their kids at schools in Delft, but there wasn't space, so who said the same thing won't happen to those being relocated here from Langa?”

The Abrahams family has been squatting on the Mitchells Plain field for the past 11 years. Picture: Leon Lestrade/ African News Agency/ANA

Community activist, Michael Jacobs, said the concerns raised by Kapteinsklip dwellers on the move to Blikkiesdorp were understandable.

“Since the offer to move, there have been housing developments later in certain parts of Mitchells Plain, but they were not considered for them,” he said.

Mayco member for Human Settlements, Malusi Booi, said the City was not aware of any housing development opportunities for the 45 families living along the Kapteinsklip line.

Talk of another relocation had also surfaced in Mitchells Plain and ruffled feathers. A letter advising the relocation of around 121 families to structures in Sweet Homes Farms, located just off Vanguard Drive, further aggravated residents.

Booi, however, said the relocation was not related to the Central Line matter but because of the construction of a road in Sweet Homes Farms, which was being hindered by families currently occupying the area.

“Residents of the Sweet Homes Farms informal settlement currently residing in the way of the road that is to be constructed as part of the upgrade project,” he said.

Ward 43 councillor Elton Jansen reiterated the message that councillors in the area were not in favour of the relocation of people on the Central Line to the Wedge area.