South Africa

GroundUp: Evicted Mfuleni backyarders now live in a tent

By GroundUp 7 August 2014

After being evicted four times from private land, about 100 Mfuleni residents have now found respite in a tent on a piece of vacant land in Bardale. By Mary-Anne Gontsana for GROUNDUP.

The backyarders were evicted from Fountain Village by landowner property developer MSP Developments, law enforcement, and the City’s Land Invasion Unit in June. They say they will stay in the tent until government comes up with a plan. They have nowhere else to go.

One of the residents and a leader in the group, Yongama Folose, said backyarders were tired of being overlooked by the City when it came to housing.

“It seems that you have to live in an informal settlement in order to qualify for a house.”

At the beginning of June, Folose and other backyard dwellers gathered on vacant land in Mfuleni’s Fountain Village where they started erecting their structures. Not long after, their homes were demolished and their belongings destroyed. This happened three times as the backyarders kept rebuilding after being evicted. The fourth time, the eviction turned violent with police shooting rubber bullets.

Eight notice boards were put up around the area by MSP Developments after they obtained a high court order which stopped illegal land invasion.

The backyarders have now found another piece of land in Bardale where they have erected a tent.

MSP Developments CEO, Riaan Roos, confirmed that “illegal land invaders unlawfully invaded and attempted to erect structures on our property in Fountain Village on 12 June.”

Roos said they received an interim interdict on 23 June restraining the backyarders from occupying or invading the land. A case will be heard in the Cape High Court on 14 August where MSP Developments will move for a final interdict. At present, the property has been zoned and approved for residential property.

When GroundUp visited the blue and white tent, it was packed. With mostly women inside, some with their young children, there were two single beds on one side of the tent and a stack of mattresses on the other. There was a gas stove with pots boiling. The flooring inside the tent was wet sand due to the heavy rain the previous night.

“Some of us stay outside and we start a fire to keep warm. It gets really packed inside the tent when it is time to sleep because we sleep on mattresses,” said Folose.

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Photo: Women collecting firewood outside the tent in Mfuleni where they live after being evicted. Photo by Masixole Feni.

“It becomes really difficult for us when it rains but as the men we make sure that all women and children are safely inside the tent and we stay outside and brave the rain and cold. We then close off the tent so that the wind cannot go through. Another reason for us staying outside is because of safety reasons, just last night [Monday, 4 August], we caught people trying to steal one of the poles that helps the tent stand.

“We hired the tent from someone who lives around here in Mfuleni but the problem is every Sunday we have to make sure that we have R1000 to give to the tent owner. Most of us living here are unemployed, so you can imagine how difficult it is to raise R1000 every week. What we do is that each person contributes R2 or any amount that they can afford,” said Folose.

Another resident introduced himself as Rasta. He said the reason he moved to Fountain Village and now the tent is because life as a backyard dweller was tough. “Living in someone’s backyard is tough, at times the landlord will just up the rent when they please knowing full well that you cannot afford it. You also get situations where some family members of the landlord treat you badly because you are renting on their property and you have no say.”

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Photo: Women starting a fire outside the tent in Mfuleni where they live after being evicted. Photo by Masixole Feni.

Nomakhwezi Ndabeni, a 39-year-old, unemployed mother of two, said she lost all her belongings during the eviction and has nothing she can call her own.

“When the time comes when we have to contribute money for food or rent, I use my children’s social grant money or I go around the neighbourhood and ask for donations.

“Even school clothes are donations from people. It gets really bad when it rains in here … the water comes in the direction where our heads are facing and you have to wake up in the middle of the night and move the children or let them sleep on top of you.”

The tent residents currently have no electricity, water or toilet on the land. They use gas to cook, paraffin lamps at night, and have formed an arrangement with one of the houses in the surrounding area to use their toilet and tap. DM

This feature was first published on www.groundup.org.za

Main photo: Evicted Mfuleni backyard dwellers have found shelter in a communal tent, but living conditions are harsh. Photo by Masixole Feni.

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