July 28 2011 at 12:28pm – Cape Times – Shanti Aboobaker, Leila Samodien and Lauren Isaacs
THEY came en masse, bearing placards and chanting as they gathered on the steps of the Western Cape High Court yesterday.
This as about 300 members of the Mitchells Plain Backyarders Association – supported by the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, Communities for Social Change, the Mandela Park Backyarders and Abahlali baseMjondolo associations – waited outside the court to hear the outcome of the case in which they face being removed from land they were occupying illegally.
This week the occupants submitted their answering papers in the matter that sees them pitted against the City of Cape Town.
In affidavits by some of the occupants, residents there outlined their living conditions which they say were “not conditions in which any human being should live”.
In her affidavit, one of the occupants on the Kapteinsklip Road land, Ilhaam Abrahams said eviction would throw them into “a situation of extreme crisis”.
“The conditions in which we are living (are) not conditions in which any human being should live. We have no option but to endure them,” said Abrahams.
“We prefer living like this rather than being homeless on the dangerous streets of Mitchells Plain.”
The case has been postponed to August 30.
Addressing the crowd, Mario Wanza of Communities for Social Change said that instead of giving them houses, the city had chosen to “criminalise” the people who occupied the land.
Other backyarder association representatives expressed similar sentiments.
Speaking on behalf of the Anti-Eviction Campaign, Mncedisi Twalo said to cheers: “Our land was stolen, our people killed – 1994 did not bring about redressing the problems of the poor.
“Our land must be given back to the poor.”
One woman told the crowd about her child who was born on Swartklip field in Tafelsig 74 days ago, when the backyard dwellers first moved there.
“If you want me to go home,” she said over the loudspeaker. “I don’t know where home is.”
The crowd also marched to mayor Patricia de Lille’s offices to hand over a memorandum which called for several things.
Among them was that the city withdraw the court case against them and that the “Anti-Land Invasion Unit” be scrapped.
De Lille arrived after a long time amid a heavy police presence. She said she would look into their demands, except for those matters facing the courts.
She committed to working with leaders from the various organisations within their given period of 14 days.
Meanwhile when the Cape Times visited Tafelsig, only some 18 people were occupying the open field.
All but one small shack housing 14 people remained while a family of four had made a hole in the ground as their home.
Father of two Theo Rosen said he tried his best to make the hole as warm and comfortable as possible, but law enforcement officials returned a number of times to demolish the covering he had placed over the hole.
“Every evening at about 6pm, I need to rebuild the hole. It lasts until law enforcement officials return the next day and break it down,” said Rosen.
Another occupant, Lenaise Titus said it was “horrible to stay in a shack in this cold weather”.
Access to water was also a problem.
“We must beg for water from people living in the area. I need to get up at 6am to get water and boil it so that I can feed my son before he goes to school,” said Titus.