Land grab halts housing

Nearly 1 500 shacks are currently on the plot earmarked for housing.

A Kraaifontein farmer fears he will lose his 82-hectare plot to land invaders if the City of Cape Town does not intervene.

Alfred Borcherds says he bought the Avondrust farm, located on the urban edge of Kraaifontein, in 1984.

Next to his farm was the Bloementhal farm, which was sold to the City of Cape Town in 2004. It is now simply known as Erf 20.

Things turned sour when residents from Phase 9 in Wallacedene built shacks on the City-owned plot, attracting backyarders from the community who then did the same.

There are now nearly 1 500 shacks on Erf 20, some occupied, some empty and some only half built.

Just over 200 of the shacks are spilling over onto the Avondrust farm, partly taking up agricultural space and preventing production on nearly 20 hectares, according to Mr Borcherds.

The fruit-and-vegetable farmer said he had obtained an interdict after Easter to remove the shacks on his property, and on April 26 the Red Ants eviction squad had demolished the shacks. But the shacks had returned and had had to be removed again on April 29.

The whole exercise, he said, had cost him about R500 000.

“It is not viable because we are not the cause of the problem in the first place; we did not invite the invaders here,” he said.

Mr Borcherds said he suffered daily vandalism and theft.

“My farm and irrigation system have been vandalised. After the removal of shacks on April 26, a lettuce field on a neighbouring farm had been vandalised, nearly R50 000 worth, but it was all damaged. They (the lettuce) were ready for harvesting. But it was kicked and even the roots were damaged.

“I am not blaming anyone from the informal settlement, but I never had this problem before. It could be anyone from the surrounding areas.”

Mr Borcherds, who supplies various fresh markets and the canned-fruit industry, said his guava trees, which brought in nearly R100 000 a year, could not be harvested for the past three years as the fruit had been picked while green.

Mr Borcherds said he had raised all of his issues with the City, but the problems had persisted. He had offered to sell the 20 ha to the City but had not had a response to the offer yet.

“My biggest concern is the safety of those people. Their shacks are so close together. How would emergency vehicles get in there?”

He said he was monitoring  the land invasion, but there was only so much he could do.

When Northern News visited the farmer on June 14, children from the community were seen hanging in the guava trees and playing on Mr Borcherds’s piece of land.

Last year, Northern News reported on how rioting broke out on the Van Riebeeck Road in Kraaifontein, after the City’s anti-land invasion unit tore down more than 50 shacks on Erf 20 that had been home to more than 300 people (“Riots erupt after eviction,” Northern News, October 10, 2018).

At the time, a leader of the invaders, who only gave his name as Rasta as he said he feared victimisation from the City, told Northern News that only 10 shacks had been built on Erf 20,  in February 2017, but more people had come onto the land, causing unrest. 

 According to Rasta, the City served the occupiers of Erf 20 with an interdict on Saturday September 29, giving them a chance to appear in court on Wednesday October 17 to argue their case. 

Ward 6 councillor Simpiwe Nonkeyizana told Northern News this week that the court had ordered the City to find alternative land for the invaders before it could have them moved from Erf 20, creating a stalemate.

“There are no solutions in place to remove them from the occupied space earmarked for housing,” he said.

Mr Nonkeyizana said the land invasion had scuttled plans to use surplus funds from the Maroela housing project to build houses on Erf 20.

He said that while the City struggled to find an alternative site for the Erf 20 occupiers he was trying to get them basic services because they were living in “inhumane” conditions.

When Northern News visited the Erf 20 occupiers on June 14, residents said they could not speak to us without permission from their community leaders. We were unable to reach the leaders for comment before this edition went to print. 

The City also did not respond to questions by deadline.