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Conflict erupts over Prasa plan to relocate shack dwellers from Central Line to land used for traditional practices

Conflict erupts over Prasa plan to relocate shack dwellers from Central Line to land used for traditional practices
Vacant land next to the Stock Road train station in Philippi has been identified as a site for the temporary relocation of people occupying the railway line beyond Nyanga. (Photo: Sandiso Phaliso)

Traditional leaders say the land is used for Xhosa initiation rituals and have vowed to fight Prasa's decision.

Prasa has identified open land next to the Stock Road train station in Philippi East to temporarily relocate about 900 households. These households are currently occupying part of the railway line between Nyanga and Khayelitsha.

Trains stopped running on the Metrorail Central Line from Cape Town to Khayelitsha in late 2019 due to theft and vandalism of equipment. This followed Prasa’s cancellation of security contracts. Then shacks were built on the unused line and railway reserve during the Covid lockdown in 2020.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Informal settlements on Metrorail tracks still hinder progress on Cape Town’s Central Line

The identification of the land next to the Stock Road station for temporary relocation of people occupying the line between Nyanga and Philippi, emerged during a Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) meeting in Parliament on 29 August.

But traditional leaders in Philippi say the land is used for traditional circumcision rituals during June and December.

Sikelela Zokufa, chairperson of the Somagwaza Institute — a non-profit organisation for the preservation of traditional Xhosa culture — said the organisation would not allow housing to be built on the site.

Zokufa said the Somagwaza Institute had not been consulted about the plan, and only came to know about it when it was announced during an imbizo hosted by Minister of Transport Sindisiwe Chikunga on 11 September.

“I was shocked to hear of the plans to relocate families there,” he said, adding that he immediately contacted and alerted his executive committee members.

“Losing the land will be a blow to us because we accommodate hundreds of boys from Nyanga, Philippi and Gugulethu each initiation season. We won’t have a place to perform these rituals to manhood and the government knows this is the only land around here that we have,” said Zokufa.

“I promise you the Stock Road site is not going to be used for relocation of railway line shacks. We are being undermined, disrespected, oppressed, and our culture not taken seriously. We are not going to fold our arms and do nothing. We will fight tooth and nail,” he said.

The record of the Scopa meeting of 29 August, attended by the ministers of transport, human settlements, public works and Infrastructure, Cape Town’s mayor, and Prasa’s CEO, indicates work for the relocation of families is overdue.

Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said the national departments and the Cape Town municipality had been instructed to work together to relocate the households living on the railway line and the rail reserve, in an initiative named Operation Bhekela.

The assessment of the relocation of the households, clearing of bush on the Stock Road station site, and whether legal complexities over land ownership had been resolved, were to be completed by 20 September, when the parties were to attend a follow-up meeting with Scopa.

But Scopa did not meet on 20 September to discuss the ongoing railway occupation. Scopa secretary Ntombi Nkabinde said the planned meeting of 20 September fell on Parliament “having a question session”. A tentative date for the next Scopa session on the railway line is set for 11 October.

Prasa CEO Hishaam Emeran told Scopa on 29 August that the clearing of vegetation on the Stock Road station site would “start this week”. According to the record of the meeting, Emeran said Prasa’s goal was to start “engineering work by next week” as part of preparing the site for relocation.

However, on Thursday last week, four weeks after Emeran’s statement, GroundUp found no evidence of vegetation clearing or any other activity at the site.

Former transport minister Fikile Mbalula last year stated the Central Line would be running by December 2022. DM

First published by GroundUp.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Geoff Krige says:

    Only in South Africa! Members of a community steal land belonging to Prasa which is charged with providing reasonably priced transport to job opportunities in the city. The community complains of the high cost of alternative transport, so Prasa finds alternative land to accommodate the land thieves. The land in question turns out to have been used without authorisation by the same community, which is now up in arms about no longer being able to use land it doesn’t own. Fascinating!

  • Y bother negotiating with these folk do to them wat they do to u force them of the praza rail land

  • James Webster says:

    So squatters illegally occupy land owned by the railway because in SA squatters are so entitled they do as they like and because they are poor and homeless they can break the law with impunity. The law isn’t applied to shack-dwellers, only to other citizens, showing that some people in SA ( politicians and shack-dwellers ) ARE above the law. To add insult to injury the dolts from the Somagwaza Institute who advocate for savage and life threatening practices on boys refuse to let the shack-dwellers move onto land that the Somagwaza Institute illegally occupies. The Somagwaza Institute no doubt, is one of the first groups of people to complain that the state does not provide transport and that they are “suff-uh-ring” but they are allowed to deny progress for the millions who need transport because they want to keep the land where they mutilate boys’ genitals. A small group of genital mutilating savages are allowed to block progress for all those South Africans who urgently need transport just because squatters in SA are so entitled they think they have the right to build shacks on top of railway lines. South Africans then wonder why people think they are barbarians. Get the bulldozers out, bulldoze the shacks off the railway lines, move the shack-dwellers to the Somagwaza Institute land and tell the Somagwaza Institute stone-age primitives to go back to the bush where their practices belong.

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