Land occupied

Eric Melton is hard at work building his informal dwelling on a vacant piece of land in Heideveld.

A group of 500 Heideveld backyard dwellers, frustrated at the long wait for housing, decided to occupy a piece of vacant land along Fifth Street, and on Thursday May 3, started building informal dwellings.

They say they will not be moved from there, unless they will be moved into their own homes.

Spokesperson for the group, Vanessa Adriaanse, said: “We are staying here. We are taking a stand as a community. Heideveld has been neglected all these years. We are the only area with no public swimming pool and no multi-purpose centre. The Heideveld housing project is riddled with corruption and injustice, and everywhere we go, from local to provincial government, our voices are not being heard. From now on, we will only engage with the national Department of Human Settlements, or the president himself. People are so desperate for housing. We have a 64-year-old woman who has been on the housing waiting list for 34 years, but she is yet to receive a house. We are willing to sleep in Pollsmoor Prison for a year, but from there, they better put people into their homes.”

The group had already demarcated their “plots” on the land, and a few could be seen delivering building material, while others started on the building of their informal dwellings when the Athlone News visited the area.
One group also prepared supper in the form of a potjiekosmeal on a fire. The piece of land is situated next to Cathkin High School, and the group is calling this space Cathkin Village.

The group has forwarded their concerns to the Department of Human Settlements, especially the issues around the housing project that they claim are riddled with corruption. They have also complained about the poor workmanship of the houses and have asked the department to investigate the contractor, Mellon Housing.

Ms Adriaanse said they have identified that the land belongs to the Department of Public Works, and that the group will make an application to give the land to the community to build houses.

She added that the director-general of the Department of Human Settlements, Mbulelo Tshangana, said at their public housing meeting on Monday April 17, that Human Settlements Minister Nomaindia Mfeketo will be meeting with the community soon.

This, however, was denied by Xolani Xundu, spokesperson for the Department of Human Settlements.

Mr Xundu said his department condemns the illegal occupation of the land. “We can never condone that,” he said.

Mr Xundu also denied that his department is investigating Mellon Housing. “The department is not investigating Mellon Housing, but the issues raised about the quality of the housing in that project. The minister will not go and meet the community until the investigation is done. Mellon Housing was appointed properly. We are investigating issues of poor workmanship and the allocation of houses that was not done properly.

“The community gave us a verbal report and we asked them to put the information in writing. We are still waiting for that report,” he added.

Spokesperson for the provincial Department of Transport and Public Works, Byron la Hoe, said his department first needs to establish whether it is them, or the national Department of Public Works who owns the land, before any steps can be taken.

Ms Adriaanse said neither the national or provincial department cared about the land before the community settled there. “If we don’t squat here, this is a danger zone. It is being used for drug use, illegal dumping and people are being robbed. We are doing them a favour by cleaning this place up – they have never bothered about it before.

Xanthea Limberg, the City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy, said the City condemns any land grabs.

She added that the City will continue to take a zero-tolerance approach to attempted land grabs, and called on private owners to take steps to protect their land from being invaded.