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Shack dwellers rejected Khayelitsha Development Forum’s attempts to convince them to relocate and demanded that the City of Cape Town give them basic services instead at a community meeting held in New Bright, Khayelitsha over the weekend. Representatives of Khayelitsha Community Trust (KCT), the chairperson of Khayelitsha Development Forum (KDF), Ndithini Tyhido, Sub-council 10 manager, Mandlenkosi Sithonga, ward councilor Rider Mkutswana and other city officials were in attendance.

Earlier this year, Elitsha reported that the informal settlement residents defied an eviction order granted to the KCT and KDF.

Tyhido proposed that some shack dwellers move to another area within New Bright to create space for the construction of a private hospital. “We propose that you continue to stay here but leave the area where the hospital will stand. We are not government. We are just a community organisation that oversees development in Khayelitsha as a whole,” he said.

Tyhido said the hospital would contain 120 beds. “We want you to continue to stay here, but we also want a hospital. Khayelitsha needs another hospital because Khayelitsha District Hospital gets overcrowded,” he said.

Shack dweller, Lubabalo Mene vehemently opposed the proposal. “We can’t move out of shacks into other shacks. We want to relocate to a serviced site,” he said.

One shack dweller said the area that Tyhido requested them to move to is too small to accommodate all of them. Community leader, Thuli Mpande said the shacks would be too close to each other. “This land was vacant for many years before we occupied it. Where was KCT during those years?” she demanded to know. “We would have never occupied it if KCT put up a board that said the land is privately owned. You can’t remove us for the sake of a private hospital. We are not going anywhere!” she added.

It is not clear which private hospital group intends to build a hospital in Khayelitsha; most residents in the township make use of public healthcare. “KDF rejects the notion that Khayelitsha should remain a dormitory where its only activity is the proliferation of shacks,” Tyhido said. He is also the chairperson of the biggest ANC region in the Western Cape. His party has recently voted for the National Health Insurance Bill.

South Africa has a two-tiered, and highly unequal, healthcare system. The public sector is state-funded and caters to the majority – 71% – of the population. The private sector is largely funded through individual contributions to medical aid schemes or health insurance, and serves around 27% of the population. The public sector is underfunded while most South Africans can’t afford the exorbitant cost of private care.

Demand for basic services

One shack dweller after another demanded that attention be shifted away from their relocation to the provision of basic services. Community leader, Siqalo Xhoseni said: “At one of our meetings two years ago we were told that we would get basic services. City officials even came here to check where they would put up toilets and water taps. We want our ward councilor to explain what happened to the promise,” he said. Xhoseni said he and other shack dwellers don’t want to relocate because they spent a lot of money on making their shacks habitable.

Xolani Joja, a City of Cape Town community liaison officer, advised the shack dwellers to check their names on the city’s housing database and update their details regularly. “You won’t get a plot if you already have a house, even if it is located in another province,” he said.

He pleaded with the shack dwellers to allow city officials time to meet and have discussions about the provision of basic services in New Bright. Joja said: “I have heard that you want basic services. We must go back to the drawing board and check how they can be provided.”

Mabhelandile Twani, deputy chairperson of Intlungu Yabahlali Basematyotyombeni Movement, said: “That we have been staying here for almost three years without receiving basic services is a disgrace.” He told the city officials that the social movement would drag the city to court if it continues to deny the shack dwellers basic services. “We will take the city to court because it said in writing that it would provide basic services here. We want basic services next week,” said Twani.

Most shack dwellers occupied the land in 2020 at the height of the Covid-19 lockdown after they lost their jobs due to Covid regulations.