BATTLES between backyarders and informal settlement residents over the allocation of houses at Makhaza’s Ithemba Labantu housing project flared up again last week, resulting in shots fired by a backyarder believed to be defending himself against attackers.
According to residents of Khayelitsha K-Section informal settlement, which is in Makhaza and where the 163-unit project is being built, backyarder Thembalani Mpambaniso was attacked by residents of the informal settlement during the early hours of Tuesday morning while he was visiting his girlfriend, who lives in the settlement.
Mpambaniso has been accused of “spying” on developments at the housing project. Accounts from residents indicate that a group of up to 100 men descended on the shack and a friend of Mpambaniso’s came to his rescue armed with a handgun. Shots were fired and two people were injured. Mpambaniso is now on the run, fearing for his life.
K-Section resident who would only give her name as Akhona, said men from the informal settlement were called together during the early hours of Tuesday morning.
She said some of the men carried pangas or sticks and she thought they were to embark on a security patrol but they headed for the house Mpambaniso was visiting.
“Within 30 minutes, I saw a car and a man came out with a gun and fired shots. Everyone was screaming, more backyarders came shouting. People were running and hiding.”
A K-Section community leader who spoke on condition of anonymity, said residents had organised patrols to prevent backyarders sabotaging the project.
He said late on Monday night a petrol bomb was thrown at someone’s home in the K-Section informal settlement.
“We didn’t know who did it, that’s why we decided to wake up every man in the area. We were knocking on every house looking for more men to patrol the place.”
He said when they got to the house Mpambaniso was in, he didn’t open the door and “everything was quiet”.
“While we were standing there a car came. One man came out and started shooting. Two people were shot, they were rushed to hospital,” he said.
Protests over the allocation of housing units between K-Section residents and Makhaza backyarders erupted in August when for almost two weeks, backyarder burnt tyres and barricaded roads in the area.
The backyarders believed they had been allocated houses in 2009, which has been confirmed by Human Settlements MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela’s spokesperson Bruce Oom, but they appear to no longer be on the beneficiary list now that construction has begun.
Backyarders allege the previous ward councillor Thobile Ludidi sold their places off to people in K-Section.
K-Section residents briefly staged their own protest in retaliation against the backyarders in August.
Again, in the first week of this month, protest flared up when backyarders prevented contractors from accessing the site to begin construction.
Arrested protestors appeared before the High Court on September 7 but public violence charges were dropped against all but the current ward councillor Danile Khatshwa who is believed to be sympathetic to the backyarders.
Judge Patrick Gamble ordered all parties to refrain from interfering in the housing project.
On September 12, Madikizela announced an investigation into allegations of corruption on the beneficiary list and ordered work to stop until investigations had been completed but the Gamble’s court order held sway and construction has continued.
Following the incident, a general meeting attended by backyarders and K-Section residents was held in Makhaza on Wednesday afternoon.
Addressing the meeting, ANC branch task team chairperson Mbulelo Mguselwana said the matter was “getting out of hand”.
Mgushelwana begged beneficiaries to come forward and help them to fight corruption.
Provincial police liaison did not respond to queries. — Nombulelo Damba