Dunoon ward councillor Lubabalo Makeleni says violent land invasions in the area have been sparked by residents wanting to lay claim to a piece of land before any development takes place there.
Mr Makeleni told Tabletalk yesterday, Tuesday March 22, about plans to move residents from Siyahlala informal settlement in Dunoon, to the piece of land along the N7, which has since been invaded.
These plans, he said, were only conveyed to him by the City of Cape Town on Wednesday March 16. But residents got wind of them and invaded the land, sparking violent clashes in which the Dunoon MyCiTi station was vandalised, stones hurled and a bus set alight.
The protest, which started at 4.30pm on Sunday March 20, was ignited after hundreds of illegal land invaders had their newly built shacks demolished on an open field opposite Dunoon.
The invasion was triggered after backyard dwellers experienced a spike in their rent, and decided to move to land along the N7, which is privately owned, and the neighbouring field which belongs to the City.
SAPS and law enforcement officers stepped in but the enraged residents hurled rocks and other objects at law enforcement officers and the MyCiTi station.
Commuters and security guards fled the scene as rocks were hurled in their direction, damaging the MyCiTi infrastructure as well as four law enforcement vehicles and a bus which was set alight.
Rubber bullets were fired to disperse the crowd and prevent them from further damaging the station which had broken glass panels and damage to the building’s exterior.
The protest occurred only five days after illegal taxi operators vandalised the MyCiTi Phoenix station in Omuramba Road, which caused damage to the station roller shutter doors; the front entrance, the cash office windows and the entrance canopy sheets.
“There is absolutely no excuse for this criminal and thuggish behaviour. The extent of the damage to both stations is still being assessed and the costs will be determined in due course.
“Those who will suffer the most are the communities of Dunoon and Joe Slovo who will not be able to use the Dunoon and Phoenix stations for a number of weeks while the buildings are repaired,” said the City’s mayoral member for transport, Brett Herron.
The T01 and T04 MyCiTi routes are currently running, with buses stopping at the Usasaza and Killarney stations and commuters from Dunoon are advised to use the Usasaza station for the time being.
Buses operating along Route T04 from Dunoon to Century City are still being deviated along Racecourse Road, into Koeberg Road, onto Bosmansdam Road and into Ratanga Road, as the Phoenix station is not operational.
Community leader Yanga Ntoni said residents invaded the land because they could not afford their rent and some were given notice to vacate their homes.
“We’re not fighting with anyone here. All we want is a place to stay and we’re saying we will engage with the councillor if he is willing to get off his high horse and hear us out. This land has been vacant for many years. We’re not interested in fighting, we just want our dignity restored as people of this city.”
Mr Makeleni said the protesters were “opportunistic” after hearing of the report he received from the City, which detailed plans for the land on the N7, which would be used for the people of Siyahlala.
“Last week plans we put on the table for the land were accepted. It was decided that the dunes towards Richwood would be flattened and the people of the Siyahlala community staying close to the railway line will be moved there into the safety zone.
“Toilets and access points will be created for the people over there and electricity will be connected.
“I was given the report on Wednesday and the people of Siyahlala were excited, but certain houses in Dunoon heard about it, and they don’t have toilets, and they pay rent,” said Mr Makeleni.
He explained some people had asked him for permission to build houses on the land, but he told them he had no jurisdiction to allow them to build on the land, which is partly owned by the City and by private owners.
“I warned them if they build, they must be ready when the owner reacts. The next thing they burned my office and the MyCiTi bus,” said Mr Makeleni.
Chairman of the Richwood Ratepayers’ Association, Danny Bolton, said residents of the area, which borders on the N7 where the invasion occured, had informed the City of their concerns.
“The invasion started from Dunoon side on Saturday and crossed the N7 to the property between Annandale. Invasion occurred next to the open land next to Annandale. We’re concerned and we raised our concerns over a number of years, encouraging development on the land.
“It’s the responsibility of the City to ensure development takes place and it shouldn’t stall and create space for people to do land grabbing. In Dunoon there is no space for people to expand. They should look at the land adjacent to Doornbach. Housing is a first priority,” said Mr Bolton.
Mr Herron said he is worried about attacks on City infrastructure over the past few days, saying there can no justification for the violence and destruction that took place in Dunoon and Joe Slovo.
“Vandalism and the destruction of City property, coupled with intimidation and threats to our personnel and law-abiding citizens, is unacceptable. We cannot tolerate this behaviour and I am urging the South African Police Service to please bring the perpetrators to book as a matter of urgency.
“The City will assist in whatever way we can to identify the perpetrators. SAPS are investigating the crimes and I am confident that those responsible will be apprehended and face the full might of the law,” said Mr Herron.