M&G: ‘We don’t want to live in Delft’


When Cape Judge President John Hlophe ordered a nine-week postponement to the state’s attempt to evict about 25 000 Joe Slovo residents from their shacks in Langa, the 2 000 people outside court broke into wild celebratory song.

The 6 000 households of Joe Slovo have been opposing government’s attempts to remove them from this piece of land bordering the N2 highway for close to three years now. Every week people are allowed to stay in Joe Slovo is seen as another victory against the state’s attempt to remove them forcibly to the outskirts of Cape Town.

The housing ministry wants residents removed to make way for its controversial flagship housing project, the N2 Gateway. Phases two and three of this project have been on hold for many months because the shack dwellers of Joe Slovo refuse to be moved to Delft – an area about 20km outside the city.

Government has been moving sections of Joe Slovo residents into temporary relocation areas (TRAs) in Delft called “Tsunami” and “Thubelisha” for the past three years.

Residents in Tsunami say the place got its name because “it’s a disaster waiting to happen”.

The TRAs are made up of 24m2 houses closely packed together. A Reconstruction and Development Programme house is generally 30m2.

Communal standpipes and communal ablution blocks stand between the houses, which are prefabricated and made of corrugated fibre-reinforced cement. There are no individual plots for each box house, which has one room.

Residents are loath to move to Delft because their social and economic networks will be severely disrupted.

Many residents who have willingly moved to Delft earlier have lost their jobs because they cannot afford transport or simply cannot get transport from Delft into Cape Town. There is no railway line linking Delft to town.

The Development Action Group (DAG) has found that 63% of people who were moved from Joe Slovo to Delft were either fired or retrenched from their jobs because they were often late or simply did not arrive for work because of lack of transport. Only 40% of the people in Joe Slovo are employed, earning an average of R1 300 per month.

Delft has no electricity. Because there is no power, people spend large amounts of money on paraffin. Policemen in Delft say the lack of power here makes Delft “ungovernable” at night.

“Parts of Delft are pitch dark at night and it’s virtually impossible to do conventional and adequate policing here – the criminals use this and robberies and rape are massive problems in Delft,” a local policeman says.

This policeman, who does not want to be named, says the police are finding “women hurting their babies” in Delft.

“The experts say it’s because people are desperate and depressed. Last month a women strangled her newborn child; three months ago a women burnt her four-month-old child,” he says.

Like most people sleeping in makeshift or non-permanent houses, residents of the TRAs do not feel safe because the walls of their homes can be broken with stones.

“I don’t feel safe here because it’s so dark at night and the crime here is terrible. Thugs break your walls and come in through the door and rape the women – it has happened to women I know,” says Zoleka Mnani, who voluntarily moved to Delft but wants to return to Joe Slovo.

“We don’t want to live here – there are no schools, no electricity and the only people making a good living here are the shebeen owners because here in this dump everybody drinks,” she says.

Mnani lost her job as a contract cleaner in Langa when she moved because she could not afford the taxi fare to town.

Mbantu Mazikile came to Delft from Joe Slovo because he was promised that he would be able to return once the N2 Gateway is finished.

“The ANC councillor promised that they will build us permanent houses in Langa. My family and I left with only our clothes and bedding and with the promise that we can return to Langa once they’ve built houses,” Mazikile says.

The same councillor (ANC Langa councillor Xolile Qope) says people should not worry too much about the lack of electricity because they will only stay in Delft temporarily – it’s already been two years. “Every time a new truckload of people is dropped here, my promise loses a bit of its value. It’s very painful,” he says.

Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and the project managers of the project, Thubelisha Homes, went to the Supreme Court two weeks ago seeking an eviction order to remove the remaining Joe Slovo residents.

For pictures of Delft go to Labour Net.