‘We are tired of living in people’s yards’

LILLIAN AMOS

Parkwood backyard dwellers want answers from the City of Cape Town after alleged promises of housing.

About 30 families had started building informal structures on a field in Falcon Way on Sunday February 21, despite threats of demolitions from law enforcement.

By Monday afternoon, about 50 families had erected tents, structures and marked land to occupy but law enforcement officials weren’t having any of it. The group was told that they had two hours to take down the structures themselves, and after not com- plying, they were forcibly removed.

When Southern Mail visited the area on Monday, backyard dwellers told harrowing stories of paying high rent, overcrowding, locked toilets and residents not having access to water.

At one premises visited by the Southern Mail in Falcon Way, there were eight informal structures in one yard alone.

This is not he first time the land has been invaded.

In 2009 a few Parkwood residents invaded the land and after a few forced removals, the land was subject to a court interdict.

The interdict has now, however, been lifted as it only has a five-year span.

Previously proposals were made to build 37 houses when another group of people invaded the land in 2010 but financial constraints has been the rea- son for the delay, according to Ward 66 councillor Melanie Arendse.

Pamela Hopley, who lives in a backyard in Falcon Way with her two children and grandchild, refused to take down her structure.

“We are tired of living in other people’s backyards because every time our access to water is cut, out rent is high, we pay for electricity and water and it is becoming too much for us,” said Ms Hopley.

The Parkwood resident claims she has been on the waiting list for 19 years but because of a mistake, the system shows she has only been on the list for the past two years.

“We know that we probably won’t get houses any time soon but in the meantime, why can’t we use this land to get out of living in appalling conditions on other people’s premises?” she asked.

“We are gatvol and want the City to listen to us for once and provide for us,” said Ms Hopley.

Community leader Benjamin Adams said a meeting was held with ward councillors two weeks ago to discuss housing.

“All we want is for the City to hear our cries. All the time these people have been living in backyards and no one paid attention to them. These people are saying that they are sick of living in such bad conditions. We were promised housing and we want to know what happened to those promises,” he said.

“Law enforcement can come and throw down the structures but we will put them up again because we will not give up the fight,” said Mr Adams.

Ms Arendse said the group is not taking the right approach to acquire housing.

“The backyard dwellers need to set up a committee and from there their grievances will be looked at,” said Ms Arendse.

“There is a definite need for housing and there is especially a need for these people who are living in difficult conditions but they can’t just illegally invade land. That is not the way to go about it, they can’t do unlawful things,” she said.

Ms Arendse added that those who invaded the land can’t jump the queue on the City’s housing waiting list.

“They must follow policy and law. Hopefully in the future, after they have established their committee the issue can be taken forward,” said Ms Arendse.