Residents protest housing shortage

Residents took to the streets and were ready to build shacks along Dorothy Street in Kalkfontein.

Kalkfontein backyarders have built shacks on vacant City-owned land in Dorothy Street, saying they want to highlight a lack of housing in their communities.

They say they fear private developers have their eye on open spaces in Kalkfontein.

This comes after the 956m2 plot in Dorothy Street was listed for sale on a property website, last week, for R290 000.

But by last Friday the plot had been removed from the website, and backyarders from the Kalkfontein informal settlement took to the streets carrying their wood and zinc sheets. More than 20 shacks now stand on the land.

According to the City of Cape Town, the City’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit removed unoccupied and unfinished structures on Saturday, January 25. But the shacks were being rebuilt on Sunday when the Northern News was there.

Alfonzo Julies, said backyarders in Kalkfontein were the forgotten people of Kuils River and moving onto the vacant land was a form of peaceful protest and a way to make themselves heard.

“We saw that the land was being sold, and we immediately built our shacks there. This space was supposed to be a sports field for the youth in our community. Again our community is being forgotten,” he said.

Mr Julies said that the newly elected Ward 19 councillor Ebrahim Sawant “boasted about his good deeds” in the communities he had previously served, and Kalkfontein residents had been “expecting him to turn their lives around.”

However, Mr Julies said Mr Sawant had only made promises to the community and had never shown up when called for a meeting.

“He is adding fuel to the fire. The situation can be worse, but we want to handle it in the best possible ways,” said Mr Julies.

“You don’t know what life is like here in Kalkfontein. There are more shacks and backyarders than actual houses. But the councillor is playing hide and seek while our people are suffering.”

A resident, Tsindi Letsela, said she had occupied the vacant land because she wanted more state-subsidised houses built in the area.

“There are not enough houses in Kalkfontein, and I am sick and tired of living in a backyard. All my life, I have been living in a yard. Our people need houses. There are grannies here who still don’t know what it is to own a house.”

Mr Sawant said he understood people were frustrated but they were also misinformed.

He said he had held two meetings with backyarders – on Sunday January 19 and again on Wednesday January 22.

“There is no need for violence or peaceful protesting. I have an open-door policy and have never refused to speak to any residents.”

Mr Sawant said he would hold another meeting at Kalkfontein Primary School on Sunday February 2, at 3pm.

Mayoral committee member for human settlements Malusi Booi said Kalkfontein informal settlement residents had been given a permanent serviced site through the Kalkfontein Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme.

They were not allowed to sell the land as it remained City-owned.

He denied the City had posted the online ad for the sale of the Dorothy Street property and suggested it was the work of instigators wanting to spur on a land invasion.

“The alleged selling of this land, considering the political dynamics of the area, appears to be an attempt to stir up the illegal invasion of land. This appears to be being done under the guise of backyard dwellers claiming what they consider they deserve,” said Mr Booi.

The City would continue to remove unoccupied and illegal structures to prevent illegal occupation of land, he said.

“Land invasions affect all of us. We will continue to protect the land from being invaded.”