City demolishes shacks in Philippi

“It broke my heart to watch officials, who have places to stay, destroy my shack and leave with my building material”

By Vincent Lali

Photo of a woman
Nomsa Thafeni, 58, managed to salvage a few plastic bottles and plastic bags, which she will sell to recyclers. Photo: Vincent Lali

Law enforcement officials removed at least six shacks and seized building materials near Lansdowne Road in Philippi on Monday.

Residents had marked out over 400 plots with stones, plastic bags and small wooden planks and started erecting shacks. There have been attempts to occupy the land for two weeks.

Nomsa Thafeni, who is 58, says she will have to move out of the house in which she is currently staying when the owner returns from Gatyana Village in the Eastern Cape.

“I live off money I make from recycling discarded materials, but I don’t make enough money to pay rent,” said Thafeni. She was hoping to settle on the empty land near Lansdowne Road.

She said she erected her shacks on the land two weeks ago.

“The officials have been destroying my building materials each time I build my shack here,” she said. “It breaks my heart that I have lost all that building material.”

She said various people had given her corrugated iron sheets and wooden planks after she walked around begging for materials.

Thafeni managed to salvage a few plastic bottles stuffed in a washing basin and some plastic bags, which she will sell to recyclers.

Phamela Mbana said, “I have been staying in the backyard at my aunt’s place, but now the government is building a house for her and there is no space left for my backyard shack.”

Mbana has three children, aged eight, 10 and 13.

“It broke my heart to watch officials, who have places to stay, destroy my shack and leave with my building material,” said Mbana.

When GroundUp spoke to her, she was holding a paintbrush. “I was about to paint the shack and put in my bed and a cupboard today, but the officials removed it.” She said her mattress was also taken away.

Xanthea Limberg, the mayoral committee member responsible for informal settlements, said the land was private and the City had acted at the owner’s request.

Nkosiyazi Siswana said, “It doesn’t make sense that the City of Cape Town prevents us from staying here because it doesn’t use the land. Thugs use it to rob residents.”

At the moment he lives in a tiny shack with five family members.

“If I want to spend a night with my girlfriend in private, I must ask a friend for a room,” he said.

“When I want to take a bath while my brother’s girlfriend is around, I must ask her to step out.”


Published originally on GroundUp .

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