Gugulethu backyarders protest against rumoured evictions

Residents of Ramaphosa protesting the possible removal of the settlement torched six vehicles. Photo by Mandla Mnyakama

Ramaphosa Informal Settlement residents say the City should expect more protests if it does not back down from planning evictions.

Gugulethu, Cape Town, South Africa

Police are keeping Govan Mbeki Road between Gugulethu and Philippi under a watchful eye following a protest on Wednesday by residents of Ramaphosa informal settlement which resulted in the burning of six vehicles, some infrastructural damage and the shutting down of the road. A large police contingent that included two Inyalas descended on the scene to disperse the blockade.

The protesting residents said that they embarked on the action as a way to avert possible eviction by the municipality following rumours to that effect made rounds in the area. They advised that the mass destruction was just a fraction of what could be expected if the City of Cape Town proceeds with its planned eviction.

Traffic lights at the Govan Mbeki and Steve Biko junction were vandalised, and traffic had to be diverted by authorities for all the rubble and smouldering tires strewn over the road and the adjacent Moonwood Road.

According to the mostly women protesters, they were provoked by the losses they have suffered in four previous evictions the municipality has conducted over the past six months. To again be evicted from the privately owned plot of land alongside one of Philippi’s busiest roads was a fate they could not contemplate.

“We are fed up and cannot just allow them to destroy our homes and confiscate our building material again. It has been long since we have been living here.

“The authorities should take us very seriously because here we have implemented the Section 25 of our country’s constitution, which entitles us to the expropriation of land without compensation,” said Luzuko Botha, a 26-year-old who previously lived as backyard tenant at Gugulethu Migrant Hostels or KwaKhiki.

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Botha warned that it will be a big mistake if the municipality evicts them again, adding that they are instead waiting for the municipality to provide them with basic services, not an eviction. “It appears that our pleas fell on deaf ears because the mayor and her officials failed to turn up for the intended meeting we wished to convene with them about our plight.

“We go nowhere,” said Botha.

Thomas Mehana, a community leader complained that Ramaphosa residents were angered when they heard about evictions being planned. “We have been evicted four times previously and people got infuriated. They no longer want to lose their own building materials … Most of our people got heavily indebted with loan sharks because they took out cash loans to purchase building materials or the already completed standalone shacks. And the Law Enforcement Officers always confiscate building material during evictions. That has left some people owing about R4,000 or more.”

“I resolved to move in and erect my own shack because I could no longer afford to cram in the backyard of a small RDP with my relatives at New Crossroads where I had tenanted in the past. This one-roomed shack I now own here is also to ensure that my two children have got a home of their own,” said a woman, ‘Madlomo’.

The mother of two children, aged 4 and seven, claimed that she had wasted more than R3,000 on building material costs and labour. “I beg the government to be sympathetic to our plight. We are very desperate for their co-operation,” she said.

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Thobeka Mshumpela (34) said she previously paid R500 rent for a backyard room in Gugulethu and had decided to grab her own plot in the settlement after she saw other people erecting shacks.

The City of Cape Town confirmed that the plot of land does not belong to it.

 

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