A non-profit organisation in Wallacedene has become caught up in a squabble with an ANC councillor and the SA National Civic Organisation (SANCO) over a piece of land.
Shiloh Synergy says it has been on the City-owned land next to the Wallacedene clinic for 21 years, running various projects from there, including feeding schemes and early childhood schooling, along with church services.
Shiloh director, Vuyile Galada, says Ward 6 ANC councillor Simphiwe Nonkeyizana, supported by Sanco, is now trying to turn residents in the area against the organisation, accusing it of invading the land.
But Mr Nonkeyizana denies this, saying Shiloh has been encroaching on the homes of nearby shack residents and misleading them about its claim to the land.
Mr Galada said things turned nasty when Shiloh cleared land and erected fencing poles to erect some temporary classrooms.
Up until recently, Shiloh has run from a cluster of wendy houses on the property, but, according to Mr Galada, the City of Cape Town had asked the organisation to stop using these because it didn’t want any more wooden structures in the area. Mr Galada noted that while the City had wanted the wendy houses gone, it had not asked Shiloh to clear off. The organisation, said Mr Galada, had donated the old wendy houses to some of the residents in the shanty town surrounding the area.
Enter Mr Nonkeyizana and Sanco. “They accused us of invading land, despite the fact that we have utilised the space for 21 years, serving food to the community and allowing residents to use our computer lab,” said Mr Galada.
He admitted that Shiloh did not own the land, but said they had applied to buy it. Nothing had come of these plans, although they had had some “positive responses” from the City.
He fears the latest skirmish may scuttle any hopes Shiloh has of buying the land and could even lead to the City asking them to leave the area.
Last week, residents led by an unnamed member of Sanco had demolished the poles used to fence the yard, in preparation for the renovations, Mr Galada said.
However, Mr Nonkeyizana said he had never seen Shiloh’s application to buy the land on the agenda in Sub-council 2 sittings. Residents had complained to him that Shiloh’s “extensions and renovations” were protruding into their spaces.
He denied agitating the community against the organisation. “They’re misrepresenting the story because Sanco and I were approached by residents. This organisation is acting without authority. They had the guts to go to a house and cut the corrugated iron while the owner was sleeping.”
Sanco chairman De Villiers Qaba denied his organisation had taken down the poles. He claimed Shiloh had, under false pretenses, tried to remove some of the shack dwellers who share the land with them. He said this was tantamount to “forced removals”.
“They went to that area and started removing people, claiming they owned the land. They have since backtracked on their claim because we asked them to show us the title deed for the land. We have met these people and they have tricks,” Mr Qaba said.
He claimed Mr Galada had tried to pass off other City documentation, detailing the site’s specifications, as a title deed when he was asked to produce one.
As things stand, the poles marking the space have been removed by residents. Two affected residents said they wanted Shiloh to stop occupying the space.
“I had the fright of my life when Shiloh came over and asked us to move because they had bought the land,” said Sweetness Dlamini, whose yard has several shacks.
She was elated when Mr Nonkeyizana told the community Shiloh did not own the land.
Nonyameko Ntobeni claims Shiloh cut corrugated iron sheets from her backyard shack without prior warning. When she learnt that Shiloh did not own the land, she pressed them to pay for the damage but they had ignored her.
Responding to the allegations, Mr Galada said he had merely given Sanco “specifications” they had received from the City and he denied trying to deceive them.
He also denied Shiloh had tried to demolish anyone’s shack, saying there was a prior agreement to give some of the residents wendy houses, but still keep their homes on the premises.
Northern News sent questions to the City of Cape Town about the land, but by the time this edition went to print it had not responded.