Cape Town  - Squatters

Squatter problems in
Cape Town

Shack in Khayelitsha

Shack in Khayelitsha

Squatting in South Africa and especially Cape Town is becoming a headache. Since the election of the new government in 1994 people have had the freedom to move around the country and stay where they please. This has caused Cape Town a major headache as it is seen as a place of employment by the masses. The result is an influx of up to 50000 people per month into the Cape most of whom move onto unoccupied land on the Cape Flats and build shacks.

The unfortunate thing about the shacks is that they are prone to fires and any candle that falls over can set fire to a whole squatter camp as the houses are built so close together. All the open spaces around the formal townships have been taken over by the squatters and shacks have been erected on them. The result being the squalor one sees when driving into Cape Town along the N2 from the airport.

The N1 highway as it enters Cape Town has also become a target for squatters who have decided to build their shacks along the edges of the road and some even sleep between the armco railings lining the middle islands. At night the Woodstock bridge provides shelter for a number of people who sleep next to the main road wrapped in their blankets and plastic to keep warm and dry. Driving past one would think that there were a number of body bags lying next to the road.

In Maitland squatters have moved into the cemetery and sleep amongst the graves at night.

 Pavement Shacks

Shacks on the pavement in Maitland

Some people have even built themselves shacks on the pavements as they say they have no where else to go. As the local government has nowhere to house them they are allowed to stay where they have built their shacks. Any open patch of ground in and around Cape Town is targeted these days and landowners have major expenses keeping the squatters off their land and if they should move onto the land even more hassles to get them off. With the constant influx of people to Cape Town the Western Cape government is strruggling to overcome the backlog of houses needed for its people.

As fast as the shackdwellers are given houses others move into the vacated shacks continuing the circle of squalor. An even more sinister type of squatting appears to be raising its head in Gauteng and that is where unscrupulous agents scout the suburbs for empty houses and then rent out the rooms to people while the houseowner is away.

Once the renters have been in the house for 48 hours the owner of the building has very little chance of having them removed and if he is able to do so at great cost to himself. Hand in hand with the squatting come a whole host of other problems. Diseases such as Aids and Tubercolosis are rife and spread like wildfire in the crowded squatter camps.

Crimes such as murder and rape also go hand in hand with squalor and overcrowding and one only has to visit the emergency units of some of the hospitals over weekends to see what goes on. There is some light at the end of the tunnel however as the Western Cape Government has set itself a target of ridding Cape Town of shacks by the year 2010 when the Soccer World Cup competition is due to be played in South Africa. To achieve this target they need all the help they can get.

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Cape Town Squatters