Media: Mandela Park backyarders go on burning and looting spree

Siyabonga Kalipa – West Cape News
22 September 2009

Backyarders from Khayelitsha’s Mandela Park residents went on the rampage on Saturday in protest over housing allocations. About 100 residents, angered by news that their allocation of 23 of 57 state-subsidised houses in the Mandela Park Housing Project 823 had been lessened to 15 houses, vented their frustration on the completed, but as-yet-unoccupied houses.

The protesters set fire to one house, broke all the windows in at least 42 houses, carted away doors, lumber, sinks and moveable building materials, and burned tyres in the streets.

The incident comes on the back of a meeting held between the backyarders and housing MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela on Wednesday wherein Madikizela appeared to back down on promises to allocate 23 of the 57 houses comprising the last phase of the development, to backyarders.

The 57 houses are the last of the 823 that provincial government set out to build in the area, and on Wednesday Madikizela announced that the number of houses set aside for backyarders was reduced to 15 as some of the potential beneficiaries who were living in backyards could not be found.

Backyard community leaders claim that the original promise of 23 houses was made by Madikizela at a meeting in August after they had lobbied for their inclusion on the housing list.

The August meeting had been called in the wake of a protest in April when former housing MEC Whitey Jacobs was prevented from handing out keys to the first beneficiaries of the Mandela Park project.

Backyarders said the fact that the beneficiaries came from other areas such as Gugulethu and Khayelitsha’s Site C, while they squatted in backyards behind houses immediately next door to the housing development, was unacceptable.

One of the leaders of the Mandela Park backyarders, Loyiso Mfuku said: “The people are tired of promises, which is why they are reacting this way. The worst part is that the MEC lied to them when he promised 23 houses and then changed it to 15, saying ‘it’s a favour’.”

Speaking during Saturday’s rampage, which included pensioners and teenagers, Mandela Park backyard resident Nokuthula Jacobs said: “I think action speaks louder than words. Now Madikizela will definitely know we mean business. And this is not the end, it’s just the beginning of things to come.”

Protestor Mzwandile Mjo said: “We want (Human Settlements Minister) Tokyo (Sexwale) to come in person to see what we are doing here, and hear why we are doing it because the MEC failed and lied to us. We will destroy these houses and no one will live in them.”

Madikizela said on Sunday that what had happened in Mandela Park on Saturday was “unacceptable”.

“It’s total hooliganism and we are going to take action, we will identify those who were leading (the protest) and vigorous action will be taken against them. The law will play its course (sic).”

South African Police Service (SAPS) Captain Bernadine Steyn said 42 houses were damaged by a group of about 90 people.

Steyn said three men, all 18-years-old, were arrested and face charges of malicious damage to property. – West Cape News

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