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One day here, one day there

Mrs Violet Voyiya is a widow with two children. She lived in Nyanga Bush squatter camp, near Cape Town, with her family until May this year. Then the ‘witdoeke’ came and burnt her house down. Mrs Voyiya ran away with her two children. They went to stay in the nearby Methodist church, together with many other people from Nyanga Bush who lost their homes.

Mrs Voyiya moved out of the church because it was so crowded. She built a shack in the KTC squatter camp. Then the ‘witdoeke’ came and burnt down KTC and Mrs Voyiya and her children had to move again. This time they went to stay in a mosque in Athlone.

Mrs Voyiya has now left the mosque. She built a new shack in a new squatter camp right next to the Administration Board offices in Nyanga township. Mrs Voyiya has moved five times in four months!


The Cape Town squatter story started more than ten years ago. Many people left the Transkei to come to Cape Town. The men wanted work because there are no jobs in the Transkei. The women wanted jobs too. But they also wanted to live together with their husbands who were working in Cape Town.

There were no houses for these people. So they started building their own houses in a place called Crossroads. People organised themselves and fought to stay in Crossroads. Their houses were knocked down over and over again. But in the end the government said that people could stay in Crossroads.


People living in hostels and back rooms in the townships saw that the people of Crossroads had won. So they moved to Crossroads too. But there was not enough space for everyone in Crossroads. So new squatter camps started.

There was Crossroads, Nyanga Bush, Nyanga Extension, Portland Cement and KTC. Most people built their houses out of old, corrugated iron. The houses did not look good — but for the people who lived in them, they were home.


Mrs Ntloya lived in one of the squatter camps. She told Learn and Teach her story.

I was born in Cape Town, said Mrs Ntloya. “I got married in 1977. My husband was a contract worker from the Transkei. He lived in a hostel in Langa. We had nowhere to go when we got married so I moved into the hostel with him. Three of my children were born in that hostel.”


“Then in 1981 the Administration Board came. They chased all the women and children out of the hostel. They put us on buses to the Transkei. They said they were sending us home. But the Transkei is no home to me — I had never been to the Transkei before. “I was put on a bus to Qumra. It’s really wild there. At nine o’clock at night the lions come out of the bushes,” said Mrs Ntloya, laughing.


“We did not stay in the Transkei. As soon as we could get a bus, all the women from Cape Town went back. The police were waiting for us but they did not catch us.

”When we got out of the bus in Cape Town, our husbands were there. But we had nowhere to go. We couldn’t go back to the hostel, So we went to Crossroads. We built plastic houses near Mr Ngxobongwana’s house. Mr Ngxobongwana is the ‘mayor’ of Crossroads.

“Church ministers and our leaders helped us to get permits to be in Crossroads. The Adminisitration Board gave us sites and we built shacks in Nyanga Extension camp. After that we paid R7 a month for services.”


”We had no problems there — until last year. Mr Bezuidenhout from the Administration Board came. He said that we must move to Khayalitsha, a new township they were building, very far away from everything.

“He said if we moved, the Administration Board would help us to find jobs. And they said people from the Transkei would be allowed to stay in Cape Town for eighteen months, before they got sent home.”


“But we told Mr Bezuidenhout that we did not want to move. And then he said we could stay in Nyanga Extension. He said that they would fix Crossroads and make it a better place for everyone to live in.

We heard nothing more about Khayalitsha. Then in May the ‘witdoeke’ came. No-one warned us. The ‘witdoeke’ just came and burnt our house and belongings. People say they are Ngxobongwana’s men from Crossroads. But I don’t know why Ngxobongwana’s men wanted to attack us.


“And then there is the Administration Board. The Administration Board wants people to move to Khayalitsha, far away from Cape Town. That is part of the government’s plan for black people in the Western Cape.

“When the Administration Board and the police saw that the men were angry with the ‘comrades’, it helped them. Some people say that the police fought with the ‘witdoeke’.

“Whatever happened, it doesn’t matter. In the end the police, the Administration Board and the ‘witdoeke’ all got what they wanted. The people who were against Ngxobongwana, and the people who did not want to move to Khayalitsha all had their houses burnt down. They were left with nowhere to live.”


But burning people’s houses did not work. People still refused to move to Khayalitsha. They took shelter in churches all over Cape Town. But people knew that they could not live in the churches forever.

“We did not stay in the church for a longtime,” MrsNtloya said. “It was very crowded and people started to fight. The Administration Board came to the churches. Again they said we must go to Khayalitsha.

“The Administration Board said there were tents for the people whose houses were burnt. But we cannot go to Khayalitsha. There are ‘witdoeke’ living there. How can we live with the people who burnt our houses?”


“My husband and I moved into an open space. We built a new shack for ourselves and our children. We were the first people there. But now about four hundred people have also built shacks there.”

The camp the Ntloya’s started is not the only new squatter camp. People are building shacks wherever there is open space. There is a new camp called Oscar Mpetha’s Square near the old fighter’s home.

There is the camp near the Administration Board offices. There is a camp called Brown’s Farm. And there is a new camp near the highway out of Cape Town.

None of these camps have toilets or taps. And people living in the camps do not know what will happen. So far the Administration Board has not knocked down any shacks, except at Brown’s Farm.


Mrs Ntloya still had more to say. She said, “First I want to ask the government some questions. How long are they going to treat us like this? When are they going to build houses for us — where WE want to live — not where they want us to live?

“And then I want to say something to people living in the squatter camps. We must never, ever let ourselves be divided again. And to stop this, we must make sure that our leaders work for us, not against us “


Mr Fukutwa lives in Crossroads. He told us how he understood the ‘witdoeke’ and their fight with the other squatters.

“There were problems in the squatter camps. People living here in Crossroads are under Ngxobongwana. They pay money to him. Today Mr Ngxobongwana is a very rich and powerful man.

”When the other squatter camps started, the leaders in these camps did not want to be under Ngxobongwana. At the same time, organisations like the Cape Youth Congress (CAYCO) started to work in the squatter camps.

“Young people started to ask questions about Ngxobongwana. They wanted to know what he and his committee did with all the money they got. And Mr Ngxobongwana did not like that.”


”Many of the older men in Crossroads were very unhappy with the young people. They did not like the way the youth told the old people what to do. They say that the young people must respect them.

“Mr Ngxobongwana used this. He said the squatter camps were full of ‘comrades’. And soon people were divided — the ‘comrades’ on the one side, and the ‘witdoeke’ on the other side. “


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