Land grab allegation in New Rest

SUMMER JACOBS

Residents living on a pocket of land in Dunoon called New Rest say they feel their neatly organised community has been disturbed by a man they accuse of “land grabbing”.

However, Dunoon councillor Lubabalo Makeleni says these residents should not be pointing fingers when most of them have built illegal structures in their backyards.

New Rest is a small section of Dunoon run by the City of Cape Town. New Rest’s layout is well organised with flattened wider streets than Dunoon and fencing around each dwelling.

Elizabeth Arendse, who has been living in New Rest for more than five years, says the community was shocked when a man unfamiliar to the community started building a shack on a plot that had been standing vacant for three years.

“In April 2013 the community was struck by a fire that was started by one of its residents. Four shacks were destroyed, including my own and the lives of six families were destroyed. The man that started the fire was under the influence of alcohol and the community came to a firm decision that he would not be allowed back into the area because of that deliberate act and that no person should gain or rebuild on that property,” said Ms Arendse.

She said a few weeks ago the community was alarmed when an unknown man brought building materials and started building a shack on that property.

“New Rest is City-owned so you cannot build a shack without being approved by the City first. Usually we are informed about new people moving in and about any structures going up but with this man we heard nothing before the time. He just showed up,” she said.

She said the community gathered as the man and his “helping hands” were building and questioned him about where he came from and who had given him permission to build. She said his answers were evasive which made them suspicious.

“We asked him to break down what he had built so far. The next day I called law enforcement and told them what had happened. They said they couldn’t do anything because the structure was already taken down but they said we should call them the moment something like that happened again.”

She said a few days passed by peacefully until she was woken up by banging sounds.

The man was back and building his shack once again. He said he had received permission from someone working for the City and from Bulelwa Mayende who works for the South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO).

Ms Arendse once again called law enforcement but she said they did not show up as they did before.

Mr Makeleni said the Department of Informal Settlements had shown up.

“I spoke to Informal Settlements and they said the family received permission from the City to move from Siyahlala, situated next to the railway line. That is all I know.

“The same people complaining about this new structure also have new structures in their backyards. They must all fall,” said Mr Makeleni.

When Tabletalk contacted Ms Mayende she said she was contacted by community leaders informing her about what had happened.

“I did not give permission to anyone to stay there. I met his wife at a church event and she told me they were living in Siyahlala close to the railway line and the City said it was too dangerous for them to live there. This woman said they had no place to go. As a Sanco leader I told her I would see how I could help her. It is my job to look for solutions and to make sure things are happening the right way in Dunoon but I never once said they could go live on that piece of property,” said Ms Mayende.

Benedicta van Minnen, the City’s mayoral committee member for human settlements, said the Informal Settlements management department has made various attempts to locate the occupant of the structure, as alleged by the community, but to no avail. She said the City will continue to investigate this matter.

“Residents need to request permission, in writing, from the City’s informal settlements management team should they wish to erect any structures in any informal settlement area, including extensions or renovations to existing structures.

“The City’s Human Settlements Directorate is looking into this specific matter to determine the way forward in terms of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act, which regulates the procedures for the eviction of unlawful occupiers,” said Ms Van Minnen.