Cape Town’s newest neighbourhood is a patch of land by the N2 dubbed ‘19’

Backyarders from the Barcelona informal settlement in Nyanga, Cape Town, invade land next to the N2 on Thursday.
Backyarders from the Barcelona informal settlement in Nyanga, Cape Town, invade land next to the N2 on Thursday.
Image: ESA ALEXANDER

A new “suburb” named 19 went up near Barcelona on Thursday. This is not the home of the FC Barcelona in Spain, however. Barcelona is an informal settlement near Cape Town International Airport, in Nyanga.

The neighbouring areas have been dubbed Covid and Virus.

It is part of a series of land grabs that spread across Cape Town this week.

Throngs of people used sticks and pieces of plastic to mark their new “homes” along the N2 on Thursday afternoon, as police looked on. Children walked around aimlessly on the patch of land sandwiched between the N2 and Barcelona.

Among the people was Nokwanele Notsingana, who claimed a chunk of land at the foot of a gum tree.

Nokwanele Nontsinga is one of the Barcelona backyarders who invaded land along the N2 on Thursday.
Nokwanele Nontsinga is one of the Barcelona backyarders who invaded land along the N2 on Thursday.
Image: ESA ALEXANDER

“We want tourists from overseas to see our plight,” she said. “We are unemployed backyarders and we are unable to pay rent — the landlords are kicking us out. We have tried to sell fruit and other things, but no-one buys because we are all broke.

“Corona has wreaked havoc in our lives. There will be more than 1,000 people on this land by the end of the day.

“We have been on the housing waiting list since the 90s. Our children were born here and we now have grandchildren. I had nowhere else to go, so I came out and set up a home here.

“We are assisting the government by moving out of the crammed backyards. This is social distancing.”

Senzo Masiza pointed our four boulders arranged in a rectangle and said: “This is my new home.”

He said he was not going back to Barcelona.

“We have realised that development is far from us because the government has no intention of bettering our lives. So we decided to come out here and build our homes and future,” he said.

“Our voices are not heard. We are still using bucket toilets to this date, although we have councillors who live among us. Landlords or slumlords keep adding more tenants in their backyards and the situation is very unbearable.”

A man prepares land to build a shack alongside Barcelona informal settlement in Nyanga.
A man prepares land to build a shack alongside Barcelona informal settlement in Nyanga.
Image: ESA ALEXANDER

He said landlords were evicting tenants who are no longer able to pay rent after they lost their jobs.  

Trying to avoid Covid-19 in Barcelona is like hiding from one pandemic behind another one
Senzo Masiza

“No-one takes us seriously. Only the rich get to have their say and have their needs taken care of by the authorities.

“All the city has to do is give me an address. If they want to talk to me, they will find me in my home, right here. We will require services as well. Trying to avoid Covid-19 in Barcelona is like hiding from one pandemic behind another one.”

Some of the land invasions have been accompanied by violent attacks on municipal infrastructure and vehicles.

Malusi Booi, the mayoral committee member for human settlements, said landlords are not allowed to evict people during the pandemic.

“Actions to prevent the invasion of land or illegal occupation of housing projects are being met in some areas such as in Khayelitsha and Mfuleni with extreme violence and destruction of property and the breaking of community facilities,” he said.

“This is impacting on city projects, service delivery or community facilities in Mfuleni and Khayelitsha and in other areas including Wallacedene, Delft, Dunoon, Firgrove, Milnerton and Nyanga.”

© TimesLIVE


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