A week of evictions as Marikana land battle intensifies

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

The sound of hammers hitting hard on nails and metal sheets echoed above Marikana informal settlement yesterday, where locals face eviction for illegally occupying private land.

Marikana is in Phillipi East, near the local police station, and has since last weekend been a battleground between those who seek shelter and law enforcers.

Men rebuilding a shack in Marikana informal settlement where police have torn down homes. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Men rebuilding a shack in Marikana informal settlement where police have torn down homes. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

The City of Cape Town’s anti-land invasion unit and police officers have torn down shacks almost daily this past week. And every day locals defiantly rebuilt their homes.

Yesterday they repeated their intention: “We will not move because we have nowhere else to go”.

City officials are worried this “land-grab holds the potential to be of an unprecedented scale”.

Marikana has been bustling this past week, as hundreds of people who have no homes started moving in on the land. They carried on their heads, under their arms and on wheelbarrows sheets of metal, wood and found bits of board to build shacks. It looked like a little village being born.

Men could be seen on roofs, nailing down sheets of metal, or securing doorways onto tiny shacks for their families.

This morning (SATURDAY) a host of NGOs plan to hold a rally in Marikana, as part of a weeklong commemoration of the Marikana mineworkers slain by police on August 16, 2012. They will march from the Phillipi train station, to the police station and gather in Marikana.

This marks the second anniversary of the death of 34 mineworkers who went on strike for better salaries at Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana, North West province.

These NGOs, including Right2Know and the Social Justice Coalition, yesterday marched from Parliament to the Caledon Square police station in Buitenkant Street in the city.

About 100 people protested against “police brutality” in Marikana informal settlement and in the mining town where the mining massacre occurred.

Tumi Ramahlele, who lives in Marikana informal settlement, was draped in a green blanket at yesterday’s Parliament protest.

The blanket symbolically links him to Mgcineni Noki, a Lonmin mineworker killed during confrontations with North West police.

Noki had worn a green blanket during those cold winter months when workers went on strike. He was a prominent strike leader and became known as ‘the man in the green blanket’ after appearing widely in the media.

Ramahlele said police officers, who were monitoring the protesters at Caledon Square, were “gangsters who killed the poor”. He also spoke out against the ANC for having “failed to address the land issue”.

“The ANC has massacred workers. What kind of democracy is this? We need to eradicate the ANC government,” he said.

Back at Marikana informal settlement, the Hondwane family – father Unathi, mother Bukelwa and their three small children – were rebuilding their third shack this week.

Unathi Hondwane said: “The police took our shack down twice already. We don’t have a home. It’s hard especially in winter when you don’t have a place to sleep.”

Like all others who started building their shacks on the private land they have named Marikana, this family used to rent a shack or a piece of land in someone else’s backyard in neighbouring townships.

“I don’t have R500 to pay every month to stay in a backyard. That’s why I came here to build my shack,” said Hondwane.

“We know the police are coming back but we are staying. They say this is someone else’s land. But where is this person?” he asked.

“He has to negotiate with the municipality about this land because we need this land. We need a place to live.”

Even Nolizwe Langa, who police earlier this week shot in the left leg with a rubber bullet, refused to leave.

“The police came on Sunday and destroyed my shack. They took my materials. I’m staying with my grandmother at the moment,” she said.

“I don’t have materials or money to build a new shack. I will stay here. We won’t run away.”

Khayakazi Tshaka meanwhile stood on the side of the road as a man passed by with a trolley full of found materials to build a shack.

“The police took my materials when they broke my shack. We got new materials and will build another shack. We are going to stay,” said Tshaka.

Repeatedly, locals said they had no alternative. Without money for rent, they needed to build homes on land elsewhere. Some managed to save between R2,800 and R5,000 for metal sheets to build a new shack.

In Marikana, they have no access to water, toilets or electricity. All they have is a basic structure that could hopefully keep them safe.

Nicholas Mopi’s first shack was torn down earlier this week after “police told us this is not our property”.

The Metrorail train security guard put up another shack. Its plastic sheet flooring was wet, as water seeped through from underground and outside.

“We came back late at night to rebuild our shacks. I finished my shack at midnight. The police told us they would break our shacks again,” said Mopi.

“I’m staying at home and can’t go to work. The police could come and take down my shack and I won’t have a place to stay.”

JP Smith, the city’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, yesterday warned Marikana’s occupants the police would be back.

“The City of Cape Town will continue to uphold the rule of law and an orderly, just and equitable housing delivery system,” said Smith.

“Anyone who insists on continuing to invade this land is breaking the law and they should be prepared to face the consequences.”

He said the city and “one of the landowners has an interdict in place… to support the elderly land-owner whose land has already been illegally occupied in the past”.

Smith said the sheriff of the court “served the interim court interdict on 8 August 2014 on the unlawful occupants”.

“There has been a concerted effort to invade both private and public land across the Cape Town as a means to promote lawlessness and in an attempt to make the city ungovernable,” said Smith.

“We believe that the situation playing out in Philippi East is an example of these determined efforts to promote the illegal occupation of land for political objectives.”

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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