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Transforming Society

Securing Rights

Restoring Dignity

Backyarders and Cape MEC in tense debate at SAHRC summit

29 August 2019

Cape Town - The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is hosting its backyarders summit at the Castle of Good Hope on Thursday, with a number of people turning up for the event.
The summit comes after fed-up residents from areas around the Mother City took to the streets to protest over their living conditions.
The Western Cape SAHRC commissioner Chris Nissen said: “What we hope to achieve is for officials and residents to come together and have a constructive dialogue. We have invited representatives of the different tiers of government to discuss all the issues on the table,” he said.
Earlier this month, the Gatvol Capetonian group protested over, among others, the lack of housing opportunities for coloured people, the apartheid-style spatial planning, the lack of housing opportunities close to work, and the long waiting lists.
Road surfaces in several areas were damaged during the protests, because of the burning of tyres. Traffic lights and street lights were also damaged.

It is not the first time the plight of backyard dwellers has surfaced. Last year, residents of Vrygrond protested over the lack of housing and demanded that the City release a piece of land known as the Xakabantu.
Residents in Woodlands, Mitchells Plain, said they had been on the waiting list for over 20 years, and illegally occupied a piece of land for days.
“It’s better that we speak about this rather than protesting or taking to the streets,” Nissen said.

Spokesperson for Gatvol Capetonian Fadiel Adams said: “We welcome this summit because it will start putting the struggles of backyarders on the agenda. What we’ll be demanding is timelines and guidelines on when we will be getting houses - and proper, decent houses.”
Adams has warned of another protest planned for later this month.
But Vanessa Nelson, a member of Housing Assembly, a social movement representing over 20 communities in the Western Cape, said the summit would bring little change.
“The issue of backyarders will always exist. What we need is a concrete plan; the government cannot provide a concrete plan because they can’t keep up with the growing demand. In my opinion the summit has to bring a solution, and usually it doesn’t,” Nelson said.
Western Cape MEC for Human Settlements Tertius Simmers was in attendance, and started responding to some of the remarks made by the backyarders.

Source: Cape Argus

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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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