Cape Town’s clean-up

Tensions are running high in Cape Town over the city’s apparent relocation of poor and homeless people to Blikkiesdorp on the Cape Flats — an attempt, critics charge, to hide grim reality from visiting World Cup fans.

Blikkiesdorp was built by city authorities in Delft on the Cape Flats in 2008 and has since mushroomed. Its hundreds of corrugated-iron structures house about 3 000 people.

Homeless people claim they have been forced off the streets and taken there in an attempt to “clean up” before kick-off next month.

The city denies this, saying it is part of general policy.

“There has not and will not be a concerted clean-up campaign,” said city spokesperson Kylie Hatton.

Blikkiesdorp resident Sadica Abrahams (42), a single mother of two teenage boys, said that she had spent most of her adult life on the streets of Mitchell’s Plain and the authorities had never moved her before.

Abrahams claimed that were it not for the World Cup, she would still be sleeping in a tunnel in the township — but would prefer that to being “trapped in a World Cup dumping site” for the poor.

“The struggle is much tougher here than on the streets,” she said. “The law-enforcement people came to pick me up one morning last year and told me I must pack all my stuff and get in the car. They said if I didn’t, they would take my belongings and throw them away.”

Suleiman Mikkelson (40) said that he was forced to move to Blikkiesdorp from Woodstock, where he had lived under a bridge for nearly 10 years. Insisting he was moved because of the Cup, he said: “I don’t understand how the government expects us to live here. This place is like a concentration camp; there’s absolutely nothing.”

Mikkelson claimed begging on the streets and sleeping outdoors is better than living in a tin shack 40km from the city, as there are no jobs and nobody to ask for handouts, as everyone is poor.

‘Hasty cleaning-up campaign’

Jane Roberts (54), a Blikkiesdorp resident and the chairperson of the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, said that although the city will not admit it, the World Cup is the reason for its “hasty cleaning-up campaign”.

“I know we were moved out of Symphony Way [a squatter camp on the N2 highway] because of the Cup; there’s no other reason,” said Roberts.

The first thing many visitors see after landing at Cape Town International Airport are the shacks along the N2. “They don’t want tourists to see us and our shacks because it will ruin the image of the city,” said Roberts.

Blikkiesdorp was established when backyarders and shack-dwellers illegally occupied unfinished N2 Gateway houses in 2007. The city won an eviction order in early 2008 and the occupants were temporarily moved to Blikkiesdorp, said Hatton.

It has since been extended to provide emergency housing for occupants of unsafe or condemned buildings, homeless people and victims of xenophobic attacks, Hatton said. The city also received requests from people who wanted to move there.

But Roberts pointed to evictions from Spes Bona Hostel near Athlone Stadium — a World Cup training facility — after it had been occupied for several years.

Shehaam Sims, the mayoral committee member responsible for housing, denied that the hostel will be used for Cup-related activities. She said that it belongs to a school and that people were moved because it is unsafe.

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Gcina Ntsaluba
Gcina Ntsaluba works from Johannesburg. Investigative journalist, Researcher, Writer

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