‘All the years of hard work put into building my home… and it was gone in minutes’

Lungile is a 36 year old mother and teacher from the Malkerns, in Eswatini. She and her children were evicted from their home in April 2018.

 

In December 2017, we were first told that we had to leave our homes. No one came to speak to us about what would happen to us after that, or to discuss alternatives or even compensation for the structures that would be demolished.

We were told to just leave, and that because we don’t have title deeds, we had no right to be there, even though our great grandparents had been living here since 1956.
Lungile

In April the following year we heard that we would be evicted. We were told to just leave, and that because we don’t have title deeds, we had no right to be there, even though our great grandparents had been living here since 1956. We were told we were there illegally.

On the day of the eviction, heavily armed police arrived. The children were already at school by then. They began with homes of the other evicted families and came to us last. All the years of hard work put into building and looking after my home… and it was gone in minutes. My children were so shattered seeing their home like that. They were trying so hard to hold back the tears, but they just couldn’t. None of us could. We felt so hopeless and defeated.

The following day we went back to see what could be saved. It had been raining the night before, but my mum and brother had to sleep out in the open to safeguard our belongings. Some were destroyed by the rain. Some of our things had to be taken to the local school for safekeeping. 

We are no longer living as a family. We are scattered all over the place.
Lungile

A few months later, the farming company that bought the land came and gave us US$800 - as a token, but not to say they had done something wrong.

My life has changed in a way that I could never have imagined. We are no longer living as a family. We are scattered all over the place. We can’t teach the children about farming the way we were taught at their age. They now learn that everything must be bought.

We are now renting a place in someone’s backyard. There is no space to farm and grow food. Before, even when you didn’t have money, you would be able to pick from the garden and have food, go to the stream and collect water. We had so much space for children to play and be free.  These days I find them sitting indoors and watching tv all the time, which is something they never did before.

As a woman, the challenges are so much greater. No one thinks about you but you have to think of others. As a mother you look after the entire family, their plans for the future. But you are unable to save for the children’s future because whatever income you have is being used by having to pay rent now. 

We were told we were there illegally.
Lungile

I am a teacher, and this has also affected my work. As a result of the eviction I have had to pick up domestic work in the homes of other teachers to earn more to afford rent, food and all the other costs I didn’t have before. And when I teach kids about how to talk about where they live, what the address is… I have to pause and think about what I will say when I have to answer those questions. I no longer have a place to call home.

The government should recognize and protect the rights of people. Before evictions take place, the government should speak to the people and consult them and make plans for people who will be affected. The government needs to recognize that evictions kill the spirit of those who are forcibly evicted.

The government should recognize and protect the rights of people. Before evictions take place, the government should speak to the people and consult them and make plans
Lungile

 

I just want to have a home - a safe place where we can live and a proper place where we won’t be evicted. I want my children to be able to have a proper education and have a better future. I want them to have a place they can come home to as they grow up.