Twenty-six families in Cape Town’s Wynberg and Plumstead suburbs could lose their homes as the City of Cape Town prepares to build a MyCiti bus route in the area. Clive Muller (50), a spokesperson for the South Road Family Association, tells RA’EESA PATHER how the looming threat of demolition has disrupted his community.
I moved into this house last April after I had been on a waiting list for 10 years. I can’t actually afford to buy a house and no bank is going to give me a housing subsidy or a loan at this age.
I have three children and one of my sons can’t find a job. My wife is also not working, and I’m trying to give my other son a better life – he’s in his second year at university now. My 11-year-old daughter is still at school.
I’ve been in the police department for 26 years now. I work in this community and I love this community. I will do anything for my community. I was glad that I got a house here to be close to work and more productive.
Now this is happening, so I don’t know what the future holds for me. The City gave us notice to vacate on 22 September 2014 in order for them to build a MyCiti Bus route through South Road. It was devastating to us. If you’re going to build a bus route through the suburbs, surely you must speak to the community about your plans.
The City says it is under no obligation to give us alternative accommodation. Some of us are behind on our rent, so they say they can just throw us out. Eight people who are in “good standing” with the council and have paid their rent and been offered alternative accommodation. But this accommodation falls on another plot reserved for roads. It’s a slap in their faces that takes them from one bad situation into another.
The City hasn’t come and asked people why they are behind on their rent. Just when we moved here my wife lost her job. After deductions, I come home with R11,000. The rent is R4,700. Every month I put aside what I can to pay the rent and rates – I still have to pay school fees and university fees. I’ve said I’m willing to come to some agreement with the arrears, even if I have to give up my pension to pay them.
I don’t want to be seen as a thief who’s stealing from the City or who’s trying to stay here for free. That is not the impression I want to create. I want to come to a settlement, but things just look bleak.
I can’t sleep at night, these things all work in your mind: how do people look at you and how will your community be affected? They trust me to fight for them because I made that commitment.
We have decided not to move until the council comes and consults all the stakeholders in the area. The City indicated that from 31 January we will be deemed illegal and that they are going to institute a court action to remove us under the PIE Act [Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of land Act.]
They’ve already demolished houses illegally – the council met on the 28 January, but they’ve been demolishing since 28 December. It’s heartbreaking – we know they did that to intimidate us. They told us: this is how it’s going to look and this is the future for the rest of the houses along the route.
We are thankful that we got to stay here. It’s the first time my daughter has had a bedroom of her own. There were a lot of things that were broken, but the City never helped. My neighbour is a handyman and he helped me. We fixed the place together. I was beginning to build a long-term relationship with the community and this home, but now I’m watching everything disappear.
The City says that the bus route will benefit 1.4 million people, but we have existing transport – there’s the railway lines, the taxis and the buses. The MyCiti has to link up with existing infrastructure according to the BRT (Bus Rapid Transport) and IRT (Integrated Rapid Transport) plans. It makes no sense to demolish houses and uproot families instead of using existing roads. We explained this to the City, but they said we don’t make sense and the MyCiti will benefit us.
I don’t want to break down, because I want to keep the community focused and hopeful. I’m taking a lot of strain – I don’t see myself as a leader, just as someone who wants to help.
I’m a human being, I’m not a supernatural being. Sometimes the tears will come, but I don’t think one can see that as a sign of weakness, it’s just being human.
As sad as it is, if we are evicted, I will just be another statistic to be forgotten. But I’m hoping and praying that this is not the case.
We must never lose hope that a miracle can happen.
– Featured image: By Ra’eesa Pather.