Backyarders demolish shacks in Cape Town

Violence and tensions between land occupiers and backyarders has been brewing for months in Khayelitsha

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Olwethu May salvages his building material after backyarders demolished his shack in Mandela Park, Khayelitsha. Photo: Vincent Lali

  • Backyarders have been demolishing shacks of land occupiers in Mandela Park, Cape Town.
  • The shack dwellers say they have been assaulted and their possessions damaged and an EFF councillor filming the demolitions says she was doused with petrol.
  • The backyarders fear the land occupation will scupper the Mahama housing project of which some of them may be beneficiaries.

EFF PR Councillor Lungiswa Ntshuntshe says she was doused with petrol on Wednesday evening by angry backyarders near Mandela Park while she was filming them demolishing shacks in Siyakhana, Cape Town.

She said she was manhandled and an attempt made to grab her phone. “Someone poured petrol on my jacket,” she said.

Nzondi Javu, a Siyakhana community leader, said the backyarders destroyed two shacks on Monday, seven shacks on Tuesday, and three shacks on Wednesday. On Wednesday, around noon, calls were being made by loud hailer to “meet and finish off the demolition of shacks”.

Toto Ngethu said he watched as backyarders tore down his neighbour’s shack with spades, crowbars and hammers on Tuesday, while Law Enforcement officials looked on.

Ngethu also said he was assaulted, his shack demolished, and his building materials damaged beyond repair.

“My body still aches from the beating and lack of sleep. We had to watch over our building materials all night,” he said.

Olwethu May said he was also beaten, his shack demolished and his possessions – cupboard, dishes, stove, mirror and microwave – were damaged.

“I have no place to stay now,” he said.

Luzuko Nenemba said they had been living at the site since 2020.

“I watched as they shook and shoved my shack to the ground. I didn’t disturb them because they insulted us and threatened to shoot us. I was frightened,” he said.

Several of the land occupiers accused Khaya Xhintolo, an area chairperson for South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO), of assaulting them.

They went to open cases at Harare, SAPS. Police confirmed a case lodged against Xhintolo.

Sergeant Wesley Twigg of SAPS Western Cape media said a case of assault and malicious damage to property had been opened.

“The investigation into the matter is ongoing. No arrests have been made yet,” said Twigg.

“I didn’t beat up anyone. I received threats from people who stay in those shacks last night,” said Xhintolo.

“We helped some land occupiers find spaces in other occupations, but the remaining ones refuse to engage with the backyarders,” said Xhintolo.

Xhintolo said they were fighting for the Mahama housing project. The backyarders fear the land occupation may jeopardise the project in which they are beneficiaries.

Ward Councillor Rider Mkutswana said he tried to resolve the conflict when Councillor Anda Nstodo, chair of the housing portfolio committee, was conducting an oversight visit in September. They tried to get the backyarders and the land occupiers to set up a committee to coordinate a relocation.

The committee was however never set up.

Wayne Dyason, spokesperson for Law Enforcement, said, “The allegation that the City’s Law Enforcement officers gave permission is not true. The alleged removal of structures last night by certain residents emanates from the ongoing conflict between the two groups.”

He said law Enforcement officers were on Wednesday but on Monday night the officers had to leave due to safety concerns.

TOPICS:  Housing Land

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