Residents living on CT railway line refusing to leave until land found for them

The Lockdown Informal settlement in Phillipi has been in existence for as long as the pandemic has been in the country - and residents here have settled in nicely with spaza shops and hardware stores.

An informal settlement has sprung up on Metrorail's central in Cape Town and the residents here are refusing to leave until government finds suitable land for them. Picture by Kaylynn Palm/Eyewitness

CAPE TOWN - The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) will head to court next month for an eviction order hearing in an attempt to move people occupying train tracks on the central line.

The rail agency served notices to people who built homes on the railway line in May. But months later they're still there.

The central line is the subject of a presidential promise, with the president pledging to get the key commuter artery back up and running. But the impromptu settlement, dubbed Lockdown, was throwing a spanner in the works.

The Lockdown informal settlement in Phillipi has been in existence for as long as the pandemic has been in the country and residents here have settled in nicely with spaza shops and hardware stores.

READ: Vandalism, land invasions major obstacles to restoring CT's central rail line

The tracks that used to support trains carrying hundreds of thousands of commuters every day were now barely visible.

There is a woman who lives with her family in a spacious silver structure made of iron with her family. She said that she received notice but had no place to go as she could not afford rent anywhere else.

“I'm worried that the law enforcement will destroy this house, so I'm worried. Government must find a place so that we can move here,” she said.

Close by, another resident was busy cleaning his yard using the tracks as boundary lines for his neighbours. He said that wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Thousands of people illegally occupying part of the central line said that they were not moving unless they got better land from government.

Nompelo Ncapayi said that she was living in someone’s backyard and paying rent. But when Covid hit she couldn’t afford it any longer so she came here.

"I was very worried. I'm not happy to be here but I'm here because we don't have a place to stay. You can see this is not a nice place and I have a family, four kids. It's not safe."

Thousands like Ncapayi were living here now and Prasa is at the beginning of a long process to try and move them.

Lawyers are heading to court next month for an eviction order hearing but are lobbying for an earlier date as Prasa has a presidential deadline to restore the central line.

Many residents here had no idea about the pending court action.

"I didn't get the letter because that day, that person from Prasa gave the letter, I went to my family, so I didn't get the letter," one woman said.

Prasa has indicated that alternative parcels of land were being secured from the national Department of Public Works and Infrastructure and that the Human Settlement Department was in the process of negotiating the purchase of additional parcels of land from private landowners and that land would need to be serviced.

Before that happened, no eviction would be able to be effected, meaning further delays.

Repeated calls to the Human Settlements Department to check on progress in this regard yielded no answers.

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