Forest Station residents left ‘high and dry’

Siya Mabukane and Zukile Mafilika are still living at Forest Station.

Almost a year on from the devastating fire that ripped through Imizamo Yethu, a group of residents have claimed they were used as “political pawns” in the housing crisis that subsequently arose.

Families living at Forest Station below Disa Primary School were due to be moved to one of the temporary relocation areas (TRAs) established in the wake of the fires, as the land on which they had been staying was to be utilised for the formal housing project in Imizamo Yethu.

Although they agreed to the conditions of a court order brought by the City of Cape Town to force them to vacate the land by June 30 2017, the families remain on the site without water and electricity.

The court order, a copy of which the Sentinel has seen, states that on the same date, June 30 2017, these residents were entitled to take occupation of units erected on TRAs established by the City.

However, according to representatives of the 16 families, Zukile Mafilika and Siya Mabukane, their situation was exploited by IY Movement leader Mkhululi Ndude to spark the violent housing protests that erupted in the settlement on
July 1 last year.

Three-days of running battles between police and protesters ensued, with Mr Ndude’s brother being killed in the crossfire. These were followed by sporadic uprisings in the months that followed.

“We agreed to the terms of the court order, because we were glad that we would be able to finally access electricity and water. Only days before the protests started, we met with officials from the City at the Forest site to iron out the details,” Mr Mabukane said.

“Our main issue was that seven of our 16 families were large, so we wanted 6m x 3m shacks for them. The rest of us agreed to stay in 3m x 3m shacks.

“At that point during the meeting, Ndude and Lulama Bini, two of the EFF leaders (IY Movement), burst in. He said the shacks at the sports field TRA were also too small, so he supported what we were saying.”

What also came to light during this meeting was that two of the 16 families had formal houses in Gugulethu and Delft respectively, and so could move to these areas. However, this is where the representatives said matters soured, and the families became victims of a “misinformation campaign” allegedly spread by Mr Ndude and his supporters.

“After he left the meeting, he was telling the community that we were all employed in high-paying jobs and that we were teachers and doctors, which was not true.

“He was also telling them that all 16 families had formal homes elsewhere, and that we had, in fact, taken the City to court and won our case. He spread the lie that was how we had got 6m x 3m shacks for the families,” Mr Mabukane said.

“We had been filling in forms for our move to the Disa TRA. Some of the shacks had already been put up on the site, although there wasn’t any electricity yet.

“On the Friday before the protests started, there was a group of Ndude’s guys hanging around the Disa site. They were telling people that there was no way that any one of the 16 families would be allowed to move onto the Disa site.”

He said the following morning – the day of the protests – this group started waking up Imizamo residents at 4am.

“They were blowing vuvuzelas, and then they started demolishing the shacks which were meant for the families. They also cut the water supply. They then dragged the building materials from our shacks down to the traffic circle, where the protest started. They used us as a scapegoat to start the protests, telling the community that the 16 families were receiving better services than the fire victims.

“The 16 families have repeatedly asked to be included in the housing steering committee for IY, but we are always turned away. That is why we still have no place on the TRAs, and why we are still living without services at Forest Station.”

Mr Ndude, however, said the 16 families did not realise the importance of all TRA residents being granted 6m x 3m shacks. “I was invited to join that meeting with the City last year. I was not there to comment, merely observe. When I heard the court was presenting the 3×3 shacks to the families, I could not keep quiet, so I intervened as a leader.

“I supported the families,” he said. “My issue was that everyone should have 6×3 shacks, not just these families. That would be a problem for the community, because it wouldn’t be fair.

“If the City gave them 6x3s, electricity, water and toilets, it was only them who were going to benefit. It would have been unacceptable that some people got good services and fire victims not. On top of that, some of the families were not even from Hout Bay.”

Saying he personally had not gone to the Disa site the day before the protests, Mr Ndude said he could not blame the group for not wanting anyone to be settled there.

“I think the families have taken this personally. The group wasn’t against them, they were against the idea of everyone else not being granted 6x3s. The families are black people who deserve to have decent homes and services, but they must also understand the pain of other black people.

“I would like to meet with the families and their representatives to talk about this, so they can understand this side of the story.”