Shack extension demolished

Louisa Valentine, 57, from Masincedane informal settlement, stands among the ruins of her extended shack, which was demolished by City law enforcement.

City law enforcement broke down a room of a shack in a Strandfontein informal settlement which had been extended by a metre.

Louisa Valentine, 57, was at work on Thursday morning when she was called home to Masincedane informal settlement, after a room she had applied to have moved from one side of her shack to another more than a year ago, had been destroyed.

She applied in April last year and had saved up enough to put up the room two weeks ago.

She had paid R250 for a window, which she had two of, and the zinc sheeting to construct the walls of her room, all of which was broken down and the existing sheets of her shack damaged.

“It took me more than a year to save up to move the room and now when it is up there is problem,” she said.

The City, however, maintained that the extension had been done illegally and claimed that Ms Valentine had indicated that she wanted to accommodate a boarder. Ms Valentine denies this.

According to her application for renewal of her “informal structure”, she was due replace the zinc roof sheets and move a room from the left side to the right side of the structure. “Alterations only. No extensions,” read the document.

It continues that the City reserves the right to demolish the extension, which is only intended for immediate resident’s family and for human habitation, and cannot be sublet.

Ms Valentine told the Plainsman she had just gone out by a metre and that while only this extension had been demolished, the existing structure of her home had also been affected.

Her niece Andrewlene Oliphant and her five-year-old daughter had been on the premises when the extension was demolished.

“It was very traumatising for my daughter who was asleep on the bed, in the room next door,” she said

Mayoral committee member for human settlements Malusi Booi said the City’s informal settlements management (ISM) department had reported an illegal extension which was built without permission from the City.

“The complainant was granted permission to renovate, to replace old rotten materials, not to build on,” he said.

Mr Booi said the department and anti-land Invasion had inspected the newly built, “illegal room” and confirmed that it was empty before it was removed.

He said that all applications for alterations were assessed in terms of the entire community.

“The ISM department action application requests, however, it is not a given that it would be approved due to various reasons including whether it is beneficial to the entire community,” he said.

Ms Valentine was given 24 hours within which to take the “illegally built section down herself or the matter would be reported to anti-land invasion”, Mr Booi said.

He added that Ms Valentine had indicated that the extension had been built to accommodate boarders and threatened to go to the media.

“Her original dwelling is still standing. It was only the illegal extension that was taken down,” he said.

Wayne Dyason, spokesman for City law enforcement, said that only the new unoccupied extension had been broken down.

He said that the City attended to the unlawful occupation of land every day and took down unoccupied structures as per court orders and in terms of counter-spoliation.

“No one can erect any structure in any informal settlement without permission as this normally happens illegally. Residents must apply to the ISM Department and residents are made aware of that fact. The City’s officials are on the ground and engage regularly with residents,” said Mr Dyason.