Families homeless after Uitenhage Squatter camp demolition

JANUARY 28, 2015

Over 400 residents, including children, of the Tiryville informal settlement in Uitenhage have been left out in the cold after the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality enforced a court order to evict them from the land they were occupying. According to the municipality, the residents were squatting on land earmarked for a housing development project since 2012.

Since obtaining a court order last year to evict them, the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality had given them six months to leave voluntarily after obtaining the order.

The evictions came at a time when cold and wet weather swept in the Bay and when schools have opened.

Attempts by the residents' lawyers to overturn the court order in the Grahamstown High Court were unsuccessful.

Heavily-armed police had to escort the municipal workers after residents of the informal barricaded roads with burning tyres and rocks.

United Front in the Eastern Cape making urgent application to stop evictions 

United Front Eastern Cape organiser, Mziyanda Twani, released a statement saying: "In an action resembling apartheid forced removals under the notorious Group Areas Act, a swarm of police in casspirs and nyalas woke up this morning 408 families in an informal settlement of Tigerville popularly known as Laplant outside Uitenhage.

"Accompanied by a sheriff, the police are threatening to demolish the houses in the settlement and evict the families that live in it. The threat to evict the households goes back to May 2014, but the Laplant Action Committee and the United Front in the Eastern Cape have been fighting the eviction.

"Since this morning, there is a stand-off between the police and the community who have vowed not to be moved.

"The United Front leadership in the Eastern Cape is currently applying for an urgent application to stop the eviction with the High Court in Grahamstown."

Residents occupied land as a last resort

The residents said that they occupied the land after being on the municipal housing waiting list for a long time. Squatting was the only choice after most struggled to meet their monthly rentals when they were backyard dwellers in the townships.

Most of them said that they had no place to go, as the municipality did not provide alternative land and they still have not been allocated RDP houses.

“The municipality gave this land to the backyard dwellers, there were 185 service sites in this land and then the housing inland approved this service site for the back yarders and all of the sudden the municipality decide to take this land from the back yarders and give it to other people.

“The people staying here were staying at Loversdale and that what made the backyarders angry. The backyarders decide to take this land here,” the residents’ leader, Maggy Jacobs, told the SABC.

Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Municipality spokesperson, Mthubanzi Mniki, maintains that the municipality does not have land to accommodate them and the municipality had given them six months to find alternative accommodation while they wait for their turn on the housing list.

“The alternative would be for them to go back to the areas that they stayed in before. So that we can quickly work on this land coz there more they stay there, the more they delay housing delivery that will benefit some of them if not most of them. So it delays the progress of government to deliver houses,” he said.

The Eastern Cape currently needs to settle a housing backlog of more than 700 000 units. The Department of Human Settlements in the Eastern Cape has also set aside R209 million to fix 2 721 defective houses.