root - August 20, 2020

Land invasion entrepreneurs are profiting as a new informal settlement has sprung up on the corner of Potsdam Road and Malibongwe Drive near Dunoon where residents started erecting shacks on vacant land underneath Eskom’s high-voltage power line servitude on Saturday 8 August. Shacks have been also been erected across the Diep River in Parklands North, not far from Rivergate industrial area. The latest land invasions are a boon to entrepreneurs who specialise in assembling and erecting shacks for people in desperate need of accommodation. The land occupiers are predominantly backyard dwellers from Dunoon, and people who were renting shacks in existing informal settlements in the area. Land occupier Thobela Nkone said he and fellow occupiers have lost work due to the Covid-19 lockdown, which has meant they cannot pay rent and have been evicted by backyard shack landlords.

On Monday 10 August several people were seen guarding plots they had staked out in the area dubbed Newland. There is also a money making aspect to the land invasion. Some residents who own RDP houses in Dunoon are participating in the land invasion in order to build a shack and rent it out or sell it, said an entrepreneur who is being hired to build shacks for the land occupiers. He asked not to be named as he did not want to be identified by authorities. He said he owns an RDP house in Dunoon, but, with some genuine accommodation seekers, managed to occupy the sports field behind Sophakama Primary School in 2018. He has also participated in the land invasion behind Doornbach informal settlement near the Diep River flood plain, formerly called Zwelitsha informal settlement and renamed ‘Eluxolweni’ where he rents shacks to occupants.

He says the scale of land invasion in the area has boosted profits for people such as himself. A one-room shack costs R3 400 to build and a slightly larger one-room shack costs R3 600. A family-size shack that can house a double bed and wardrobe costs R4 600. He says he used to accept a 50% deposit with full payment upon completion of the shack, but now demands the full price beforehand because if authorities demolish the shacks they confiscated all the materials and then people don’t pay the rest of the money. Ward councillor Lubabalo Makeleni (ANC) said land invasions were destructive to planned developments in the ward.

Makeleni said people were illegally occupying City and privately owned land and he was afraid land set aside for housing development would also be invaded. The land invasions also disrupted businesses in the area. “Not only white people are afraid but also businesses and also those who are on the housing waiting list are afraid that they will wait forever.” He says the spate of land invasion has boosted profit margins for entrepreneurs specialising in shack building. “Those building shacks… their business is booming. They can’t keep up with the demand to build shacks for land occupiers. It’s chaos.” Continual land occupations would “create havoc”, he said. \ “What is happening in this ward is uncalled-for. It should not be happening. Crime will skyrocket. The residents will soon look for water, electricity, toilets. It is going to create havoc in our area and it will attract criminals. This area is going to be a big mess. It’s going to be unattractive for business.”

The City of Cape Town and Subcouncil 1 chairperson Nora Grose had been approached for comment but no response had been received at the time of going to print. Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements Malusi Booi said: “this is one of the many attempts currently to invade land across the metro. The City is protecting the interest of hundreds of project beneficiaries as well as the surrounding communities. Orchestrated land invasions cannot be condoned as it stretches already finite City resources and negatively impacts on planned housing, service delivery or community projects.” Booi said the City continues to act to prevent land invasions. He said the City acted to remove illegally erected structures in this area on Wednesday 5 August and continuously over the long weekend. “Illegal land invasions are against the law and pose great fire-, safety-, health- and flood risks. Having various new settlements forming in an unplanned manner also poses a risk to the City’s informal settlement’s COVID-19 response,” he said.

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