Woodlands land invaders take grievances to sub-council

Edwina October, 36, one of the land occupiers who lives with her five children in a wendy house in Woodlands.

A group of residents who have invaded land in Woodlands, who call themselves the Woodlands Home Seekers’ Association (WHSA), says they have had enough of waiting for housing.

On Monday June 11 they drew up a memorandum, citing the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Amendment Bill. They headed to the Sub-council 23 office in Lentegeur with more than 60 signatures on the document.

Melvin Fredericks, 47, one of the land occupiers, said: “I have been on the waiting list for 23 years, since 1995. I am married. My wife and I are living here with our seven children. I am sick and tired of constantly having to wait on government for a house. In our history, people used to own farms in Constantia and Westlake and people could live there. Our people have stayed here for long, I am prepared to die here, I need this. They (law enforcement) took my clothes, belongings and structures and compartments of the house I built here.”

Another land occupier, 41, who did not want to be named, said: “They take our homes away yet other land invaders get to stay where they are if they’ve put up a house. Nothing has been done about our situation yet. This is the fourth structure that law enforcement demolished.

“Most of us are unemployed, that is why we are living here. We have no homes, we are still waiting for houses to be given to us. This march that we have set up is due to the poor service delivery, unequal development and distribution of resources. It is also due to the false promises of housing by government and local government for the past 30 years and lastly the illegal eviction of land occupiers. Law enforcement officers come to take our things away without name tags and a legal document stating our removal. Land invaders on Baden Powell and New Woodlands are allowed to live there but why aren’t we allowed to live here?

“It is a must that this message get sent to the sub-council. We won’t be ignored anymore, the DA is not taking note of our plea,” he said.

The land occupiers have been forcefully removed by law enforcement on several occasions – Saturday May 26, Thursday May 31, Sunday June 3 and Sunday June 10.

The Plainsman spoke to several land occupiers who shared their stories.

Edwina October, 36, said she is unemployed.

“I live with my five kids aged, 4, 7, 18 and 13-year-old twins. I am a backyard dweller. They are all boys. I stay in a small room with my cousin in Woodlands.”

A 35-year-old land occupier, who did not want to be named, said: “I am sharing a room with someone. I have five children of which two of them, aged 1 and 3 stay with me and the other three, 11, 14 and 16, have to stay with my parents. My mother, 76, is a pensioner. It is not easy for us. We were born here so we should be allowed to live here too.”

Latiefa Meyer, 39, said: “I stay in a small room with my husband and six children, 6, 8, 10, 13, 17 and 21. We have to share a double-bunk bed and a single bed. We cannot walk into the room at the same time; it is too small for all of us to fit.”

Zeta Joseph, 32, said she is currently staying in a wendy house on her granny’s property with her four children, 1, 5, 7 and 10.

“My sister and her child stayed with us as well but had to move because there was no space for them. I have to give my All-pay away to my children and our needs; what can I do, we are in need. This is so unfair. I had to break down my wendy house to come and build on this plot, I have nothing left to build with anymore if they are going to take my things away again. I have been on the waiting list for five years.”

Deborah Hagan, 56, said she is staying in a small house with her mother, 76, her brother, 51, his wife, 51, and his two children, 26 and 29, and grandchildren, 8 and 3.

“My two children, 25 and 36, are also living with me and my grandchild, 8. I desperately need a house, it is crowded. My husband and my brother’s son are epileptic and my mother, who had a stroke is in a wheelchair.”

Jennifer Carelse, 50, said: “I am staying in my stepfather’s house with my husband, 53, and two children, 15 and 24, and I have to move out now. I have nowhere to go if they have to sell this house.”

Nazly Abrahams, 54, said she is living in a wendy house with two families.

“I have been on the waiting list for five years and my son has been on the waiting list for seven years.”

Roslyn McMillan, 44, said her whole family is staying in a wendy house.

“I have been on the waiting list for 12 years,” she said.

Raphael Martin, Sub-council 23 manager, received the memorandum from WHSA on Monday June 11. “They explained to us what their concerns and demands were about housing. They asked that an answer to the memo be given by Friday June 15. It has been sent to the relevant people involved in this issue.”

Mr Martin said a meeting will be convened with the WHSA.

Speaking on the demolition of the structures, he said: “They occupied the land illegally therefore their illegal structures were demolished. We have met with the Woodlands and Mitchell’s Plain leadership on several occasions to speak about this issue. Right now we are dealing with those that have been waiting for houses since 1996, for over 20 years. The City will do a land audit for viable land that is suitable for human occupation and what land has been earmarked for City and provincial land. We won’t be able to build houses, we do not have short-term solutions; it is a process as we need to talk to the parties involved.”