’Shack farmers’ prey on poor

The ZweZwe site is part of the Diep River floodplain.

The poor are being ripped off by “shack farmers” – people selling and leasing land they don’t own – in a Dunoon informal settlement, and the problem is getting worse, say residents.

The residents of the ZweZwe, a settlement just off Malibongwe Drive that took root from a land invasion two years ago, have started a petition, calling on the City to remove and “catch out criminals” selling large plots in the area.

Shack farmers are selling some sites for R5000 and leasing others for R700 a month to people desperate for housing, says community leader Dolly Vinqishe.

At the settlement, Tabletalk found plots marked off with concrete blocks or mounds of sand.

“We are against people selling and renting the land. It was invaded by us two years ago because we had nowhere to go,” Ms Vinqishe said.

Although she acknowledged that invading the land was illegal, she said selling or leasing invaded land was “just wrong.”

She was part of a family of 24 who had lived on the property of her parents’ RDP house in Dunoon, she said. Finding conditions too crowded, she had joined the land invasion in September 2019.

Ms Vinqishe said she did not mind people putting up shacks to live in ZweZwe, but those selling and leasing land that did not belong to them needed to be “dealt with”.

Those who had spoken out about shack farming in the area were being threatened and had turned to the police for help, she said.

Phumza Mphendu moved into a three-bedroom shack in ZweZwe after she lost her job last year and could no longer afford the R1000 rent on her two-bedroom shack in Dunoon. She said she had more money for food now that she was living rent free.

But those paying or renting plots in ZweZwe from the shack farmers were not so fortunate, she said.

“Some of them are paying less for plots where they currently live, than here,” she said.

According to Ms Vinqishe, the ZweZwe land is owned by a farmer who lives on the opposite side of Malibongwe Drive and the occupiers have asked him to sell the land to the City to provide housing for Dunoon.

Tabletalk was unable to reach the farmer for comment by the time of publication.

According to Malusi Booi, mayoral committee member for human settlements, the ZweZwe site, which is about the size of six rugby fields, is part of the Diep River floodplain and intended for future road expansions.

The City was aware of “illegal transactions” happening at the site and would continue to remove unlawfully erected, incomplete shacks and unoccupied structures within what was legally allowed, he said.

“An interdict is in place to prevent further occupations in the area. The City is monitoring areas that have been illegally occupied,” he said.

City law enforcement did daily site inspections at illegally occupied areas, he said.

But ward 104 councillor Lubabalo Makeleni said law enforcement was not very active in the community because invasions were happening daily, and those leasing and selling plots were “too clever” for the City.

“The City can only remove shacks that are empty, so the people put furniture in the shacks while they are looking for people to rent or buy from them and they know it cannot be removed,” he said.

Most land invaders had houses but saw ZweZwe as a way of “making money off desperate buyers”, he said.

He encouraged people to report illegal transactions and illegal occupations to the City and to the SAPS.

Table View Ratepayers’ Association chairwoman Mandy da Matta said that without roads, sewers, and water and electricity supply, informal settlements created hardship for people settling on land that did not belong to them.

“Where are the public schools, public health facilities, roads and basic infrastructure to accommodate more residents in the area?”

“Selling” the land to unwitting buyers was criminal and gave a false sense of security to the person who had paid for land that did not belong to them, she said.

“These scammers should already have been arrested and charged with their illegal activities,” she said.

Milnerton police spokesperson Captain Nopaya Madyibi said no one had reported any “land selling” cases to the station and there were also no cases involving ZweZwe residents who had been threatened.

The public can report land invasions to 112 from a cellphone (toll free) and 107 from a landline or 021 480 7700.

Shacks can be seen from Malibongwe Drive
From left are Dolly Vinqishe, Phumza Mphendu and Zukiswa Gidimisana who have started a petition against shack farming in ZweZwe