Cathkin Village dilemma…

A group of about 500 backyard dwellers illegally occupied this land in May 2018.

The provincial government has brought an urgent application to evict residents of Cathkin Village informal settlement in Heideveld, which will be heard in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday January 28.

In May 2018, about 500 frustrated backyard dwellers from the area, who became disgruntled at the local housing allocation process, illegally occupied a piece of land in Fifth Street. The land is part of Cathkin High School’s sports field.

Initially, there has been uncertainty about who owns the land, whether it was the provincial or national Department of Public Works.

The Athlone News has since received confirmation that the property is owned by the provincial Department of Transport and Public Works.

Jandré Bakker, head of communication at the Department of Transport and Public Works, said: “The property in question is in the ownership of the Western Cape government and has been allocated to the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) for utilisation by Cathkin High School.”

Meanwhile, while the land occupiers are preparing for the upcoming court case, allegations have been made that community leaders are “making money”, by requesting payments from those living on the land.

Ward 44 councillor, Anthony Moses, said people were under the false impression that they will be given a house if they move there.

“The Department of Transport and Public Works did not give the land to anybody. There has been a split in the group. Those who broke away, are working with us to see how we can work together. The other issue is that there is no water and sanitation, and children are getting sick. However, we need the necessary permission to provide essential services,” Mr Moses said.

When the Athlone News met with the “break-away group”, most of them pointed fingers at community leader Vanessa Adriaanse, chairperson of Cathkin Informal Settlement, accusing her of enriching herself, with no transparency and no feedback.

Ms Adriaanse denied all the allegations against her.

“The people who broke away from the rest of the group are only about five people. Ninety-nine percent of the people living on this camp are united. We are a registered non-profit organisation. That small group is causing conflict. We have been collecting money for legal fees, as court documents indicate that the costs of the application would be the responsibility of the respondents – which is us. We collected R100 a family every month, but in the month of November we asked families to give more, as we needed to pay the lawyer, Riaz Saloojee an amount of R20 000. None of us are making any money. There is a committee who collects the money, and the minute you pay, you get a receipt. We have all the documents and have held public meetings to give feedback to the community. We have nothing to hide,” Ms Adriaanse said.

Ms Adriaanse was supported by a group of women who confirmed the statements she made.

Mr Saloojee denied the other allegation that he was working on the case pro bono (for free). He showed the Athlone News a statement of account for the Cathkin Village case. “I am working at a reduced rate, but not pro bono,” Mr Saloojee said.

Ms Adriaanse also does not live at the informal settlement, and this is also a contentious issue for the break-away group.

“As a black woman, I have appropriated this land for my people, because of all the injustices around low cost housing in Heideveld. I also know what it feels like to sleep outside. My heart is in this community. I pleaded for water and sanitation with mayor Dan Plato at a public meeting and I have a video clip to prove that. Mr Moses has political issues with me. There are no factions. They are lying,” Ms Adriaanse said.

She added that they would like the land to be used for social housing development.

Shaheema Allie, the secretary of Cathkin Village Informal Settlement, said it is the people not willing to contribute to the legal fees who are causing the discord. “We sent out letters to ask how we can assist those who cannot afford to pay the legal fees. None of what we do is underhanded,” Ms Allie said.

Ms Adriaanse vowed however, that the people will not move from the land. “I don’t care what the court will decide. They will have to kill me before the people leave here. We are fighting with all we have.”