Parkwood residents call for land

Community leaders and residents at the site they wish to reclaim along Prince George Drive.

Parkwood backyarders and other residents brought traffic to a standstill on Saturday May 12 when they held a placard demonstration along Prince George Drive.

About 75 people attended the protest organised by NPO Voice of Parkwood (VOP) and supported by the First Indigenous Nation of South Africa (FINSA).

Paul Phillips, founder and chairperson of VOP, said the protest was to send a clear message to government and the relevant authorities that social and other challenges in Parkwood needed to be addressed.

“The lack of housing is a key contributing factor towards the social decay of our community. Our people remain landless, homeless and years on a housing waiting list. This matter needs intervention on the highest level. We are taking a stance against this gross neglect of people’s constitutional right to decent housing,” said Mr Phillips.

Protesters stood along Prince George Drive chanting: “We want houses” and “Give us our land” and even stopped traffic for a few minutes. The group also erected a makeshift structure and planted a peg in the ground to “reclaim” the piece of land between Prince George Drive and Walmer Road.

Mr Phillips said people had been marginalised for too long.

“We’ve been fighting gangs and gangsterism on the Cape Flats in our communities for years. Housing is a major contributing factor towards the breakdown of our society.

“We have people in Parkwood who have been on the waiting list for over 30 years. This is the third generation of Parkwood coming to register because their grandparents and parents were on the waiting list. There is no redress happening for our people and we are saying enough is enough. We want to talk about the real issues relating to why we are not getting decent housing. We want answers,” said Mr Phillips.

He said the group is reclaiming the land but not illegally occupying or grabbing land.

“We are not violent. We are peaceful and (violence) will not be our approach. Ceremonially we are making a statement and to ask that our plight as coloured people, especially those in Parkwood, is heard,” said Mr Phillips.

Those in attendance also had an opportunity to register on the housing database.

Gregg Fick, interim leader of FINSA, said the people of Parkwood belong to the first indigenous nation of Southern Africa who were classified as so-called coloureds. “The first indigenous nation are the legal custodians of all land within South Africa. If there is any land expropriation it must be considered that we have the first legal right to it. We will continue to peg and reclaim land across provinces for the Khoisan,” said Mr Fick.

He said the two strongest political parties in the country have been marginalising and continuing with the discrimination of the coloured people as was done during apartheid.

“It’s time for us to stand together as coloured people. We are the custodians of this land and it’s high time that government engages us on this matter,” said Mr Fick.

Dominique Booysen, chairman for the Parkwood Backyard Committee, said in other areas people who protest get what they want.

“We don’t want to be violent but we are tired of just keeping quiet and to let these things continue. We need houses for our people. Backyarders get electricity and toilets but there’s no talks of housing. We need answers,” he said.

Max John Swartz said the suffering of backyard dwellers must come to an end.

“We want fairness. People pay high rent for shacks in backyards, living in squalor and unhygienic conditions with awful landlords. We demand houses,”said Mr Swartz.