Cape Town officials gear up for more shack evictions
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
Hundreds of families from different informal settlements face eviction as city officials plan to move them to an isolated plot on the Northern suburbs outskirts near Melkbosstrand.
The Weekend Argus visited the isolated council-owned plot this week where construction is underway of what the city calls the Wolwerivier Incremental Development Area (IDA).
This newspaper has copies of the city’s architectural plan, which indicates the city plans to erect 500 structures where 373 families will be moved. The families presently live in six informal settlements across the city.
One of the informal settlements is in Wolwerivier, adjacent to the planned IDA. Families are concerned that the new structures would be too small for them.
Dina Vink, 60, lives in an abandoned farmhouse in Wolwerivier where she cares for five foster children. She has lived in the farmhouse since she was 14.
Vink said she was “happy when I heard we would get electricity because we don’t have that”. But she is not keen on moving to the IDA, she added.
“I’m living in a house of a farmer that I worked for since I was 14. I don’t pay rent and the farmer doesn’t live here. He said I could stay here,” said Vink.
“There are many people who are not happy about moving. They want to stay in their houses (shacks). We know we need better houses but these (IDA) houses are too small. I’m not happy about it.”
She added: “I take care of foster children. Some of their parents are dead or in jail, or can’t take care of their children. I can’t leave these children. They must stay with me. I won’t be able to move to a small house with them.”
Around Vink’s farmhouse are shacks with families who were moved there earlier this year from the Richwood area in the northern suburbs.
Willem Davids lives with his six children in a shack. Like most of the families, they have no income and cook on fire.
“There are no jobs here. I was a painter in Milnerton but lost that job. I can’t get there because we don’t have transport here,” said Davids.
“They’re throwing us in an isolated place. There’s no escape from here. It’s not right. I know they will come here and throw down our shacks. But it’s not right.”
Not too far from Wolwerivier is Skandaal Camp informal settlement where families also face eviction. Families have settled here illegally, on the property of the Vissershok dumpsite off the N7 highway in the Malmesbury direction.
Thozama Qobongwa has lived in Skandaal Camp since 1985. She said moving to the IDA would cut many families off from an income.
“We have been able to survive because of the dumpsite. Our people could get steel or paper and bottles from the dumpsite and sell it to scrapyards. Then you get money for food on the table and the kids can go to school,” said Qobongwa.
She said “city police and security started to make life difficult for people”.
“It’s difficult to go to the dumpsite. The security beat people if they go inside there. I used to get stuff from the dumpsite but we can’t go inside anymore.”
Qobongwa added: “There are a lot of people who still go there at night. Securities and law enforcement don’t want people to go there. They can take people to jail.
But this is the only way that we can earn money.”
Some Skandaal Camp residents are also seasonal farmworkers. Resident Mzwandile Mgudlwa, who has lived in his shack for 26 years, has worked as a farm labourer.
He pointed out shacks that city officials have recently started demolishing, saying it has been unoccupied.
“The community feels sad. The City of Cape Town came and broke down people’s houses (shacks). We don’t want to move. If they are handling us like this, it will be worse. We think there will be more poverty (at the IDA),” said Mgudlwa.
“At least here people can get stuff from the dumpsite or trucks that come here with steel. They can also get things that they need to build their shacks.”
Melkbosstrand residents have meanwhile formed the Wolwerivier Action Group to monitor the IDA located 8km from their suburb.
The group’s chairman John Taylor said the IDA has the “potential to become a dysfunctional community unless adequate social and welfare services are provided”.
“The problems arising from the enforced integration of different racial groups into very small and densely packed shelters combined with the large number of shebeens and the use of drugs is certain to generate increased crime and domestic violence,” said Taylor.
“The current planning makes little provision for essential social needs such as playschools, health services, churches, spaza shops, skills development and training and communal farming.”
Taylor said they have approached city officials and told them they would be “placing an unrealistic burden on local support structures to assist them”.
“This (IDA) will undoubtedly place an even greater burden on the shoulders of local residents, both from a crime and social services demand perspective.”
Councillor Siyabulela Mamkeli, the city’s mayoral committee member for human settlements, said yesterday the families would be moved to the IDA “from the beginning of next year”.
“They will live in structures far superior to their current shelters and they will have water, sanitation and electricity and refuse removal services for each individual structure,” he said.
He added: “The consolidation of the various communities at Wolwerivier will make policing less challenging than with the current geographical location of the various communities. To assume that people residing within informal settlements are criminals is unfair.”