Wallacedene land invaders clear parks to build shacks

Children play on an unstable jungle gym that was taken out of the ground in Thloome Street park

Backyarders have invaded land and stripped jungle gyms, merry-go-rounds and other equipment from municipal parks to build shacks in Phase 9, Wallacedene.

City law enforcement officers removed more than 500 shacks from parks in Gumede
Street, Matobyele Street and Thloome Street, and land along Botfontein
Road on Friday and Saturday last week, said law enforcement spokesman Wayne Dyason.

But on Monday July 20 the backyarders were rebuilding their shacks on the same spots, claiming they have nowhere else to go.

Earlier a handful of protesters demanding land stoned and petrol-bombed cars and properties along Botfontein Road.

Knocking together two planks on the wooden frame of his shack,
Jacob Rapulme said he had started building at a park in Gumede Street on
Thursday July 16 because his “landlord put his family out on the streets”.

He had worked on a Stellenbosch wine farm for six years until May 3 when his boss had let him go because of the Covid-19
pandemic, and so he had no longer been able to pay his monthly rent of R1500, he said, adding that he wasn’t the only one in that position.

At first he had been among 50-odd people putting up shacks, but then more had joined, he said. By Thursday July 16, some 300 shacks had sprung up across Kraaifontein

But Mr Rapulme said he and “his team” were not part of the protests
and wanted shelter instead of trouble.

“We are not here to cause harm and create trouble, but we are
homeless and have nowhere to go. This is our fight for survival,” he said.

A Thloome Street resident, who did not want to be named as she feared being victimised, said the backyarders had threatened
children, telling them to stay away from the park or “they will be hurt” if found there.

She pointed to a playing apparatus that had been removed to
make way for shacks and said the backyarders were stoning residents’ homes in the night.

“Our streets are dark at night and we cannot see who the
culprits are, but they come out of the half-built shacks and throw rocks against
our doors.”

Ward 6 councillor Simphiwe
Nonkeyizana said he had met with the backyarders and found that people from
other townships were joining those from Wallacedene.

Most backyarders, he said, were unemployed, but they needed to find somewhere else to live because they would continue to be removed from areas they occupied illegally.

“It is unfair that the children
have to stay away from areas made available for them by the City,” he said.

Mr Nonkeyizana added that the area was “tense” and protests could erupt at any time, but some backyarders had
agreed to move elsewhere.

Mayoral committee member for community
services and health Dr Zahid Badroodien said the City did not condone the destruction of recreational
facilities and the invasion of parks.

“Parks are developed
and maintained in highly densified communities, primarily to benefit the youth
who have no other alternatives for affordable, accessible and safe outdoor
spaces for recreation,” he said.