There have been 65 attempted land invasions and associated protests across Cape Town, leading to 24 arrests for public violence, from Monday March 12 to Sunday March 18, according to a City statement this week.
However, the people who have taken a piece of municipal land behind Sophakama Primary School say they don’t understand why the City is fighting them over a site no one is using.
Tabletalk found about 30 people building shacks on the land. Several unfinished structures were scattered around the area.
The group spoke openly about why they had decided to occupy the land as a “last resort”.
Nokulunga Beme said they couldn’t afford to pay rent in Dunoon.
“We hardly have money to sustain ourselves so we definitely can’t pay rent. What usually happens is that you would have a shack in someone’s backyard and things will be good for some time.
“The landlord would one day decide that rent must go up or that you have to move because he/she wants to do extensions to the home and that leaves you stranded. We then saw this area and saw that it isn’t being used and thought we’d come build here,” said Ms Beme.
Some of those building on the site said the land had been a breeding ground for crime while it had stood empty, and people had been attacked and raped while crossing it on their way to and from work.
Noxolo Moni said they had been asking the City for help since 2014, as they had nowhere to go and could not afford the high rentals demanded by Dunoon’s landlords.
“We were told that we are not in the City’s budget plans, so we can’t be helped. But we have said we are not looking for houses, we are looking for land.
“In 2016, we went on foot to the municipal buildings and left a memo with our requests. We never received an answer. So, right now, we want land, flushing toilets and electricity. We will handle the rest ourselves.”
“And one more thing,” added another land invader, Mvuyisi Ndaba, “we aren’t the ones destroying property along Potsdam Road”.
Xanthea Limberg, Mayco member for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy, said that while the City had “great empathy” for those seeking accommodation, land invasions could not be tolerated.
“As a City, we are active in our informal settlements day and night, and we know the hardships that many of our people are facing. Unplanned and uncoordinated formation of informal settlements, however, often results in conditions where basic services such as water and sanitation cannot be provided, and access for emergency vehicles is prevented.
“When land is illegally invaded, we all lose,” she said.
Ms Limberg said the City had started planning in 2013 to deal with Dunoon’s rapid growth and had commissioned a three-year study to understand the constraints and opportunities in the area.
“Various possible interventions were suggested to facilitate the holistic regeneration of Dunoon’s spatial, economic, social and operational functions.
“The planning processes for Doornbach informal settlement (the oldest informal settlement adjacent Dunoon), which also required additional relocation sites, have already started.
“All government departments are currently working together to execute the strategies and approaches which were developed for Dunoon,” said Ms Limberg.