A crude structure on the pavement covered in plastic sheeting is home to 23 backyarder families in Mfuleni who were kicked off their landlords’ properties six weeks ago.
The backyarders have been living rough, despite the Cape winter rains and cold setting in, and say they have been targeted by the City’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit.
The landlords, who live in shacks but own the site they’re on, said they were told by the ward councillor that they needed to get rid of the families they’d allowed to squat on their sites as proper houses were soon to be built for them.
Although all the families have children, numbering 24 in total, they say the City’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit has destroyed their attempts to build decent shelter on open land three times since they were forced to move on March 17.
“We do not blame the landlords, they had no choice but to tell us to find our own places,” said backyarder Daniswa Matiso.
She said the group spoke to the ward councillor Themba Honono but had received no assistance.
“I went to fetch him in his office. He only gave us five minutes to speak with him, while we were busy telling him problem, he cut us off and said our five minutes is finished, he has important meetings to attend to.”
“What make me so angry is that he said he doesn’t know any backyarders here.”
Matiso said although Honono denied that there could be backyarders in his ward, the city of Cape Town was well aware of their plight.
However, instead of providing assistance, she said, City authorities sent the Anti-Land Invasion to destroy any structures they tried to build.
“More than three times they came here and destroyed the structures and we had to sleep outside. This is not life but we do not have other place to live.”
She said amongst them they had pregnant women and small children. All they could do when it rained was cover themselves with plastic, she said.
Backyarder Nokubonga, 34, who didn’t want to provide her surname as she didn’t want her son who was studying Grade 12 at Manzomthombo High to be identified, said she was scared her son would fail Grade 12 as a result of them being homeless.
Anti-Land Invasion Unit Head, Stephen Hayward, said the unit was acting on a court order.
“What they’re doing is illegal, they can’t just build a shack on City land without permission. We had to stop them and take the structure down before it becomes their home. We’re doing that twice a week.”
Honono said the sites on which people had been settled was “a new area” and he “doesn’t understand where the backyarders are coming from”.
He said there was a lot of land invasion in that area and “not a single person” came to him about the problem