Gugulethu backyarders vow to continue land occupation

Police blocking the protest march from going to Gugulethu Police Station. Photo by Bernard Chiguvare

A group of backyarders in Gugulethu began to occupy vacant land in the township last week and started erecting shacks. By Sunday, the protestors had barricaded the busiest routes in the township, demanding to speak to the Mayor about housing delivery.

Gugulethu, Cape Town, South Africa

Hundreds of Gugulethu backyarders marched to Gugulethu Police Station trying to get answers as to why the Cape Town Mayor did not avail herself for a meeting scheduled at 10am on Monday.

The mayor was supposed to address the backyarders following land invasions by the backyarders at sites NY112, NY108 and NY6 since last week.

The backyarders sang and chanted political slogans as they marched towards the police station but could not go near as the road was blocked by several police vans and Nyalas.

“We have been trying to engage with the office of the mayor several times to no avail. The City is dragging this matter and the disturbing thing is we are told Western Cape has clean audits. What are these audits about yet the City fails to deliver,” said Mirvin Tshabalala, the Gugulethu backyarders’ spokesperson.

Tshabalala says this time there is no going back on the issue.

After some arguments with SAPS, Tshabalala turned to the backyarders.

“Let us go back and wait for the mayor at our new homes,” he shouted.

Speaking to Elitsha, one of the protestors in support of the backyarders, Nkosi Peter (59) said, “I was born and bred here in Gugulethu. I live in a two-roomed house with my two children who are all married. They have their own children. Imagine how seven people can stay in a two-bedroom house. This is bad. I am supporting the march because I want my children to have free space and stay happily with their families.”

Asked about the way forward given that the mayor did not avail herself, Peter said, “That is not a problem to us; we will continue burning anything on our way till she addresses us.”

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Another backyarder, Akona Sne (22) said she has been leaving as a backyarder since she was born and she finds it very difficult.

“We are 14 people staying at one place. Imagine sharing one toilet. I am frustrated by this. My two kids aged 7 and 4 contract diseases. I need a free place of my own.”

Another protestor, preferring to remain anonymous, called the office of the mayor and reported to the anxious backyarders that a meeting was scheduled for tomorrow.

“We are going back to the our new homes and start building while waiting for the mayor. Please do not pepper spray us because you heard us. Those are our new homes,” she said gesturing towards police officers.

In an email response from the office of the Mayor, it was claimed that she had been advised by the police that the area was “still volatile” on Monday but that she plans to meet with the community on the following day.

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About Bernard Chiguvare 56 Articles
Originally from Zimbabwe and since 2014 I been contributing to different publications in South Africa. My area of focus as a reporter is on the rights of vulnerable communities and foreign nationals in any country.