RESIDENTS in Cape Town’s Doornbach informal settlement next to the Du Noon township are overjoyed at hearing the city has bought the land they occupied 18-years ago.
Residents of the approximately 15 000-strong settlement situated adjacent to the Killarney industrial area have regularly protested over a lack of service delivery but the city has up until now been unable to provide basic services as the land was privately owned.
The sprawl of 3 500 shacks is serviced only by communal water standpipes and rows of portable toilets, and the web of wires from illegal connections run from formal houses in Du Noon hang so low over the busy Potsdam road that they are sometimes snapped as they catch on passing trucks.
Previous owner of the land, Rubin Morris of Cape Killarney Investment, said the city paid him R9 million for the 12 hectare property.
Although he said he was not happy about the price, he said there was “nothing I could do”.
“You don’t argue with the city, they just said ‘this is it, take it or leave it’.”
Morris said he lost a lot of money on the land as had he been able service it and divide it into industrial plots he could have sold it for close to R60 million
Up until shortly before the land was invaded in 1994, it was a functioning dairy farm, said Morris, it was invaded shortly after he stopped farming the land following his father’s death.
He said he fought for over ten years to get the squatters off the land, including going to the High Court and then the Supreme Court of Appeal but lost on the grounds that he could not provide alternative land for the squatters.
“I eventually gave up,” he said, although as landowner he had to keep paying rates to the city.
It was a hollow victory for the squatters though, as the city could not provide services on land they did not own. But now that the way for service delivery to take place has been cleared, residents are hopeful their lives will improve.
Albert Mazula, a pastor at the Presbyterian Church who has stayed in a two-roomed shack in the informal settlement for the past 13-years shack sharing it with his two sisters, his wife and his two young children, said he was “very happy” to hear the city had finally bought the land.
Mazula said he hoped that the city was going to provide them with the basic services they had been demanding for years.
“Now that they have bought the land they have no reason to refuse,” said Mazula.
He said residents’ main concern was the provision of electricity which would minimize the occurrence of shack fires.
Street lighting would help reduce crime, he said, as thieves were easily able to hide in the dark.
He said the construction of roads in the informal settlement would allow for police patrols as well as enabling access for ambulances and firefighters.
Doornbach resident Nophaseka Daniso, 36, a mother of two children aged seven and 17, who has lived in the informal settlement for 15-years said the city’s purchase meant the municipality could no longer ignore their demands for services and houses.
City’s mayoral committee member for human settlements, Ernest Sonnenberg, said the city acquired the land for R9million with transfer having been registered in March 2011.
Sonnenberg said the city planned to provide basic services to the Doornbach informal settlement “with the city being the owner of the site, it will have much greater control over service provision, which it hopes will benefit the community in the longer term.”
The density of the settlement is, however, extremely high, he said, which may limit or impair the proposed “in situ upgrade of the settlement”.
Meanwhile, the city planned to provide basic services in the short term and incrementally improve the quality of life in the settlement up to a fully upgraded formal settlement over a couple of years.
Sonnenberg said the R9 million purchase price was negotiated and agreed upon between the parties.
“The City over a number of years expressed an interest in acquiring the land and engaged the landowner to this effect over an extended period of time,” he said. — Peter Luhanga