Clifford Nogwavu, chairperson of the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) for Imizamo Yethu, has denied inciting residents affected by the fire to continue rebuilding their shacks despite a City-brokered agreement to “superblock” the area.
On Sunday March 19, Mr Nogwavu was issued with an emergency high court interdict ordering residents to cease all building of structures. Copies of the order were also placed at strategic positions around Imizamo Yethu.
In addition, Mr Nogwavu was accused of inciting “violence and intimidation” toward the surveyors, contractors and cleansing officials.
However, according to ward councillor Roberto Quintas, the order was immediately flouted, as “exceedingly large structures” were erected between Sunday night and Monday morning. These shacks were believed to be larger than the ones present in the area before the fire, and were alleged to infringe on the areas demarcated for road and access path reserves.
“The actions of this splinter group are in complete contrast to the wishes of the wider community. Most people are being co-operative and have been willing to relocate. It is selfish, and jeopardising the needs of others.”
There have also been allegations the rebuilt structures will be rented out to members of the community, benefiting a group of “slumlords” in Imizamo Yethu.
Responding to the allegations and court order, Mr Nogwavu told the Sentinel the City should stop responding to “hearsay”.
“When we had the first meeting a day after the fire, everyone agreed that people would be able to rebuild their shacks immediately. At that meeting, the City acknowledged that they didn’t have a plan in place to address the situation,” he said.
“That’s why people started rebuilding their shacks and brought in new building material. Then there was a second meeting (Tuesday March 14) and suddenly they said the decision that had been taken at the first meeting was wrong, and they wanted to move everybody out. I was not present at this meeting, and they knew they were supposed to consult with me.”
Emphasising that he was a “representative of the community” and only ever acted on behalf of residents, Mr Nogwavu said when he received the court interdict he was surprised. He insisted the decision to rebuild lay with residents, and he only represented their interests.
“When City representatives came to us on Monday this week, the residents and I said we would be willing to negotiate but only if they reverse the high court order. We are waiting for a call from the mayor to reverse that order so that those negotiations can begin. On Tuesday, I met with representatives of the mayor’s office, and they said they wanted to sit down with us so we can stand as one. But I still say that court order must be reversed before we can sit down for talks.”
In response to allegations that the shacks being rebuilt were larger than those that occurred previously, Mr Nogwavu said: “That is not true. The people who are saying this never saw the shacks in Dontse Yakhe before. People are building their shacks within the boundaries that were there before. In fact, one of the reasons they did not want the bulldozers to come in the first place was because they would erase those boundaries.”
He did concur, however, that illegal renting had been a major problem in the settlement.
“This definitely happens. As Sanco, this has always been something we had tried to address. It is illegal to build shacks to rent out on land that belongs to the City. I have always emphasised that at our meetings.”