Archbishop Desmond Tutu foundation evicts township family

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

One of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s foundations will evict a township family off a property it owns, leaving them homeless and seeking help from the global icon.

The eviction marks a turning point in the lengthy battle between Zoliswa Maci, her three grown children aged 18 to 22, and the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation.

Zoliswa Maci (front) with her son Lelethu Maci at the house from where she will be evicted. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Zoliswa Maci (front) with her son Lelethu Maci at the house from where she will be evicted. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

In 2007, the foundation bought a piece of land Guinea Fowl Road in Masiphumelele township, near Ocean View suburb, about 40km from central Cape Town. It built a youth centre on the land.

Maci, her estranged husband Crossby Maci and three children had already been living on the land for ten years. The foundation claims it offered to relocate the family, while Maci claims its offers have not been ideal.

Talks between the parties led nowhere and the foundation in August obtained an eviction order from the Simon’s Town magistrate’s court.

Linda-Gail Bekker, the foundation’s chief operating officer, said they have been paying the family’s water and electricity accounts since it bought the land.

Entrance to the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation in Masiphumelele township. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Entrance to the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation in Masiphumelele township. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

She said: “The family used our water facilities and never paid any contribution to rates. This continued for a number of years while we continued to fund raise for the youth centre building. On at least on two occasions a tap was left on for weeks with an astronomical impact on water bill. No effort was made to let us know or intervene.”

The foundation needed to extend its buildings and the family needed to move, added Bekker.

She said they have on “numerous occasions tried to reach a reasonable compromise including a cash pay out”.

“We had warned Mrs Maci that we had no choice but to move on with a plan to ask the courts to intervene,” she said.

“In our opinion, a person who has been accommodated extensively for seven years rent free… is now impeding the full activities of a project which has benefits for many hundreds if not thousands of youth in the area.”

Bekker said when the foundation bought the land the Maci family had lived in a “rather ramshackle shack”.

Maci’s husband signed a written agreement with the previous landowner, Brian Curtis, who employed him as a labourer and watchman on the property. It was used as a building yard site at the time.

“As part of his remuneration as watchman Crossby and his immediate family are entitled to live in premises at the yard,” states the agreement.

The Maci family has had to vacate the land as the property has been sold.

Maci is now stranded and her only income is as a domestic worker two days a week. She said her husband “left me in 2010 because we had financial problems”.

Two of her children “are living with friends”.

Maci said she wanted to meet Tutu.

“I have never met Desmond Tutu. I would ask him for a place to stay. I don’t want to be on the street,” she said.

“I have lived here for 17 years. I have friends here and I pray at the church every night for help. The court said I must move at the end of December. I feel very bad,” said Maci.

“It’s not easy to live here because they tell me to hide when they have visitors. When (US president) Barack Obama was here, they told me to leave the house from 6am to 6pm that day. They tell visitors who come here that this house is for tools.”

Maci said the foundation “tried to rent a place for me”.

“But I’m scared of the rent. What if they stop paying the rent? I’m not working,” she said.

Lelethu Maci added: “I don’t know where I’m going to stay now. I don’t know what to do with my stuff. I was living here since I was one year old. I grew up here.”

“I used to go to the youth centre to do some activities and keep myself busy. I stopped the activities when they told us we must move from here.”

Bekker said they have “offered alternative living arrangements” but “spare plots in Masiphumelele were very hard or impossible to get”.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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