Media: ‘All we want is a patch to call home’

18 06 2009

27 people share a one-roomed shack after being removed from Macassar land

June 16, 2009 Edition 1
Fouzia van der Fort – Cape Argus

IN ALL her 27 years, Macassar mother-of-two Ronelle Muller has never lived in a brick house – in fact, she has moved from backyard to backyard more than 12 times.

Although she wishes for something better for her children, the reality is that Muller and her family call a single-room shack home. And they share it with about 26 other people.
They are forced to take turns sleeping, the men taking shelter under plastic sheeting outside or keeping watch around a fire throughout the night.

Muller’s family is among those who got on the wrong side of the City of Cape Town by setting up home on a piece of land close to the N2, which is earmarked for a housing project of 2 500 units.

A few weeks ago, their makeshift home was demolished after the city secured a court order to prevent people from occupying the open land. An environmental impact assessment of the land is under way.

Muller explains that her family resorted to putting up a shack there after she was retrenched last August and could no longer afford to pay for backyard accommodation.

She says her husband is a painter whose work is weather-dependent.

Sitting close to the fire outside their latest home, hands clasped tightly between her thighs, Muller says: “I don’t want my children to see this. All I want is to put a roof over their heads.”

The shack the family now shares with 26 other backyard dwellers, who were all evicted from the land destined for development, is built on the edges of the property in question.

“We are on the waiting list. I am tired of renting here and there. All I want is a small piece of land,” Muller said.

Their makeshift shack is built from the remnants of the demolished shacks, and the roof, which is made of thin plastic, sags with the water that collects whenever it rains.

The city court order to prevent anyone moving on to the land came in response to an order obtained by the Anti-Eviction Campaign last month, which prohibited the city from breaking down any structures built there.

Another woman living on the land, Nolundi Mkhutshulwa, 33, says she has moved three times in the past six months. Shortly after passing matric in 1995, Mkhutshulwa moved to Cape Town from Port Elizabeth in search of a job.

She moved in with her cousin in Madala Bos, an informal settlement in Macassar. In 2003, she registered to study business management, but was unable to finish the three-year course due to financial constraints.

About four years ago, she moved with her cousin’s family to a single-room house, but last September he asked her to move because “he wanted his house”.

First, Mkhutshulwa moved to a backyard structure that cost her R400 a month, but she was asked to move again.

She then moved into a wendy house, but had to leave when the rent was hiked from R150 a month to R300, excluding water and electricity.

When a family friend saw she was living on the pavement, after she joined other evicted families on the streets, she was offered another backyard in which to erect her wendy house.

“I dream of a job, any job, just as long as I can earn some money at the end of the day,” she said.

Mkhutshulwa is one of five children and said she would not return home until she found a job. Her parents are pensioners and only her youngest sibling has a job.

“There are better working opportunities in Cape Town. My brothers and sisters are not working back home.”

Mkhutshulwa’s boyfriend, Gladson Clive Tom, 33, who hails from the Northern Cape and is a qualified plumber, also does not have permanent work.

City of Cape Town spokeswoman Kylie Hatton said the people they had initially evicted from the site in Macassar were told to seek alternative accommodation at the Ark Night Shelter.

“They refused to accept that proposal,” she said, adding that they were not “trying to diminish their plight”.

“The council acknowledges their plight,” Hatton said.

According to her, the law was clear and the city would continue to abide strictly by the Prevention of Illegal Evictions and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act, as well as the provisions of the constitution.

The leader of the evictees, Johnny Jeffery le Roux, said they wouldn’t move to the night shelter because it was about 10km out of Macassar.

“Men, women and children would be divided.

“We will be away from our home,” he said.

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