Community leaders burnt out in power struggle

By Buziwe Nocuze

As tension rises between the new and old leadership in Covid squatter camp, Cape Town, community members are feeling burnt out from their fight. 

Luthando Mcuntula, a passionate advocate for the rights of informal shack dwellers in the area, is one of the most prominent figures in the dispute.

According to Mcuntula, the old committee members are not willing to relinquish their power to the new leadership, of which he is a part and which is committed to bringing change and improving services for the community.

In January, he received a call informing him that his shack was being destroyed by individuals who were allegedly influenced by the old committee members.

“When I arrived, people were destroying my shack. They ran away as soon as they saw me,” he said.

Later that same day, the leaders and some community members came around to burn the shack, with all his belongings inside.

Finally, on Sunday, 12 March, four leaders were arrested in connection with the arson attack on Mcuntula’s shack. 

The arrest added fuel to the already heated conflict between the old and the new leadership.

Zusiphe Makhwenkwe, one of the community leaders who was arrested, denied any involvement in the arson attack and expressed shock at being accused.

“Spending the night in jail was the most traumatising thing that I ever experienced in my life,” said Makhwenkwe.

Busisiwe Mdletye, another community leader, accused Mcuntula of being a bully who chases people away from the community.

“We were fighting for this land while he only came in 2021. He was elected because the community thought he was going to work for them, but after some time they realised that he doesn’t do things correctly,” she said. 

Despite the denials from old committee members, Mcuntula insists that they were responsible for the attack on his shack. 

“I am willing to drop the charges if they rebuild my shack and replace my belongings,” said Mcuntula.

Western Cape SAPS spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Malcolm Pojie confirmed the arrests and said that four suspects between the ages of 32 and 45 were arrested in connection with the destruction of the house during a fire in January 2023.

“The four were charged with arson and appeared in court,” he said. 

However, Pojie said the matter was temporarily withdrawn against the four, and they have been released pending further investigation. 

Pictured above: Luthando Mcuntula standing by the remains of his burnt-down shack

Image source: Buziwe Nocuze


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