Land battle pits ‘squatters’ vs owners

Community leader John Andrews is upset that Beukes residents are labelled "homeless".

A land row is brewing between people who claim to have been living in Beukes, an informal settlement, for decades and those who recently bought property in Goliath and Buh-Rein estates in Kraaifontein.

Kobus Conradie, a neighbourhood watch member from Goliath Estate, raised the issue at a two-day conference with the Department of Community Safety and the Tygerberg Cluster to gauge policing needs and priorities in the area.

He claimed the settlement was little more than a camp for homeless people and was fuelling crime. Residents had repeatedly pleaded with the City to buy the land, which is zoned for farming.

There are about 100 shacks in Beukes, and the City said it is yet to verify the number of people living in that community. However, Beukes community leader, John Arendse, said the land was owned by several people, but most of them did not live there anymore, choosing instead to rent out their shacks.

Mr Arendse said crime affected everyone, including Beukes, Goliath and Buh-Rein estates, and the estates’ residents needed to stop spinning the story that Beukes residents were homeless. He took exception to Mr Conradie calling them “squatters”.

“How can we be? We lived here before them. There are no homeless people here,” he said, adding that Buh-Rein residents had been misled when they bought properties and only realised later that they lived near an informal settlement.

He also accused the City of planning to kick Beukes residents off the land and claimed their Ward 103 DA councillor and sub-council chairman, Gerhard Fourie, had misled them by preparing two different plans – one for the developers and one for Beukes residents. “We know there are plans to kick us out because we have seen the two different plans from our councillor.”

When Northern News approached Mr Fourie for comment on Friday September 9, he asked that we email him questions, which we did. However, he had not responded by the time this edition went to print.

Mr Arendse said he had left the Cape Flats in 2004 to live in Beukes, which he describes as “repressed”. “I have never seen people being held back like this,” he said, adding that many relied on social grants to survive. Mr Arendse said all the families there rely on portable toilets.

He admitted there were a lot of break-ins in both Beukes and Goliath Estate, but he did not believe Beukes residents were to blame for those. “People from the other side of the railway (from areas like Wallacedene, Scottsville and Scottsdene) commit the crimes here, and we get blamed for it, even though we’re also victims.”

Kraaifontein station commander, Brigadier Gerda van Niekerk, was not immediately available for comment and neither was Buh-Rein Estate’s spokeswoman Sonja Joubert.

Mr Conradie said Beukes was eroding property values in Goliath Estate.“The issue is getting worse. More people are coming in.

“The City is stalling in buying out the land because they want to buy it for cheap. We don’t have a problem with the land owners; our problems are with the squatters,” Mr Conradie said.

The land is owned by several people whom Northern News was unable to reach for comment.

Henna Baron said she had lived in Beukes for 25 years and it alarmed her that Buh-Rein and Goliath estates residents had been in the area for less than five, “and already want to kick us out. It’s unfair”.

Sarah Engelbrecht, of Beukes, said she did not have a problem with the people from Goliath Estate and that it could not be true that they were trying to get rid of Beukes residents because the latter group had been there first and because they drank together at shebeens in Beukes.

Benedicta van Minnen, the City’s mayoral committee member for human settlements, said that because there were several private owners of different portions of Goliath Estate, including Beukes, developers would need to negotiate with all the property owners should there be any interest in the sale of those portions of land.

She said the City had provided basic services, including standpipes and toilets, on the periphery of Beukes, but the law prevented it from spending money on the informal settlement itself because it was on private land. She said the City was not negotiating with anyone to buy any land in Beukes.