‘City is failing us’

Zama Rooimes was wounded in an attack by his landlord.

Zama Rooimes nearly lost his ear in a panga attack three weeks ago and, hours later on that Sunday September 18, he lost his shack in Wallacedene after the City thwarted more land grabs in an area notorious for them.

In the past week, two more structures have popped up at the camp, and those who were evicted say they have been saddened by the City seeming to give certain residents a pass.

Mr Rooimes claims that when he told his “drug-addicted” landlord he had lost his job and couldn’t pay his R300 rent for his shack in Phase 3, Wallacedene, the man slashed the side of his head and cut his ear. That incident on Sunday morning September 11 prompted Mr Rooimes to relocate his shack to Phase 3A the same day.

There, he met another newcomer, mother-of-two Ntomb’zanele Maqoqa, who also built her shack on Sunday. Others at the site had put up shacks the week before.

On Monday, City law enforcement vehicles moved in and demolished Mr Rooimes’s shack, along with others in the settlement. He quickly rebuilt it, but law enforcement officers demolished it again on Tuesday.

“I don’t know where to go now. I’m without a home, and I don’t know where I’m going to sleep,” said Mr Rooimes on an overcast and cold Thursday morning.

When he settled in Wallacedene in 2014 – from Matatiele, Eastern Cape – he thought he would find a better life, but so far things have been far from smooth sailing

On Wednesday September 14, when the officers rocked up again to monitor the situation, they had spotted Ms Maqoqa’s shack, demolished it and confiscated its materials without consulting with her, she said.

She has been squatting in a neighbou’rs home with her two-month old baby and her son Ovayo, 5.

She said it would have been better if the officers had just destroyed her shack and not seized her building materials, because now she has to find a place to stay and money to build a new shack.

“I begged them to leave the structure and asked them where they expected me to live with my children.

“I don’t know where I’m gonna take them now. I’ve asked a family to keep our clothes in their garage until I figure out something,” Ms Maqoqa said.

She moved from inner Wallacedene because she could no longer afford the R300 a month rent for a backyard shack. The area in Phase 3A has attracted a lot of land grabs and new shacks over the years.

Mzukisi Mkhawulezi, who represents the Sinethemba residents and who also put up his shack without City permission three years ago, said the land grabs had been going on for years and were a result of the council failing to help the residents.

The isolated area, which is without water and electricity, is mainly occupied by backyarders who left inner Wallacedene because they could no longer afford the rent, which is about R300 a month.

Mr Mkhawulezi, said it was the fifth time this year residents had built shacks, later demolished by the City.

“We have been engaging with the City and urging it to utilise this open space by giving us services like electricity, water and sanitation,” said Mr Mkhawulezi. “We understand that this is the City’s open space and no one is supposed to build on it, but we have nowhere to go.”

Benedicta van Minnen, mayoral committee member for human settlements, said seven structures had been demolished and one structure’s material confiscated. She said the area was problematic, with structures popping up regularly.

“No one receives a ‘pass’ from the City. Vacant, unoccupied illegal structures will be removed,” she said.

Asked about the confiscation of Ms Maqoqa’s material, she said the structure had been removed before and, on the second occasion, had been taken for “safe-keeping”.

Her boyfriend, Jack Kwelilanga, told the Northern News yesterday October 10 that his family’s situation had not changed and that they had been saddended by the latest developments.

“It’s painful to see people put their structures up and not get evicted like we did. We want to understand why they have been given the pass and not us.”

Mr Kwelilanga and his family currently live with a colleague of his, who lives close to the camp. They keep their clothes and other items at another friend’s garage close by.