Wed Oct 26 09:48:52 SAST 2016

'There is no way I'll go to starve and die in Delft'

By unknown | Aug 21, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Anna Majavu

Anna Majavu

his morning an important case comes before the Constitutional Court, involving 20000 Cape Town residents whose informal settlement is set to be bulldozed.

State-owned company Thubelisha Homes (now bankrupt), Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and Western Cape housing MEC were granted an eviction order on March 10 this year against occupants of the Joe Slovo informal settlement in Langa.

They argued that the residents must be moved to fibre-cement shacks in a "temporary relocation area" in Delft, about 20km away from the city. They said this was necessary so that they could continue building houses as part of the N2 Gateway housing programme. After the houses were built, they said, they would move the residents back.

The community quickly established though that most residents would be left in Delft, a place many describe as "God-forsaken", which has no rail service, where crime is rife, schools are overcrowded and medical facilities dire. Delft is also not close to any suburb where people might find work.

Housing ministry spokesman Xolani Xundu agreed that "not everyone will come back" to Langa.

He told Sowetan that 1500 families will get free houses in Langa, and 45 bonded houses will be sold to the public. The bonded houses are unaffordable to 99percent of the residents who are unemployed. And the community of 5000 families said they did not want 3500 families to be left behind in Delft's temporary relocation area.

oe Slovo task team leader Mzwanele Zulu said that all the families could be accommodated if the government built RDP houses or if they worked with the people to come up with a plan that suited everybody.

Xundu said: "People who did not relocate back to Langa would be housed in Delft. They would not be left in the lurch in the temporary relocation area."

But these claims were contradicted by Ashraf Cassiem of the Delft Anti-Eviction Campaign.

He said that hundreds of people who voluntarily relocated to Delft from Khayelitsha were still languishing in the temporary relocation area seven years later.

Leon Goliath, a civil engineer at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, found that the temporary relocation area was "unfit for human habitation".

Goliath said the roofs of the temporary dwellings did not connect with the walls and the gaps "led to leaks and drafts, which was not good for health . and could be a fire hazard".

He said that windows and doors did not have frames and residents have been forced to secure them to the walls with concrete.

"These chunks of concrete could fall off and injure someone. Without proper frames, how do you lock and secure your dwelling?" Goliath asked.

He also found traces of asbestos in the fibre-cement material.

Thubelisha Homes, which was declared bankrupt a few months ago, has also been criticised by residents in bonded flats the company built in Langa in 2004.

Luthando Ndabambi, coordinator of the N2 Gateway flats residents, said the flats are uninhabitable. Walls were cracked, roofs leaked and Thubelisha supplied the same lock to all the front doors. Anyone could open any other flat in the building.

Residents said they do not see why they should move when they have been promised RDP houses for the past 14 years. They live 10km from the city centre and are part of well-established Langa where their children are happy in schools.

Some residents said that they often "jog" into town where they find casual work.

There is also a wholesale fresh produce market just 4km away in Epping. Residents said that many have no food other than that which they get at the market in exchange for cleaning.

Nombini Mbeqe, 67, and Majangaza Ndithini, 55, have been living at Joe Slovo for 10 years, supporting several family members, including grandchildren.

e are not going to Delft because here we can walk to Epping Market. I work there in exchange for fruit and vegetables. Many people do this whenever they have no food," said Mbeqe.

"If I don't get fruit and vegetables for my grandchildren, they will starve and die. There is no way I will take my family to die in Delft," she added.

Ndithini said: "I am unemployed, but I get temporary work now and again and I make use of the market. Whenever there is nothing for my family to eat, I go to Epping Market."

In the face of their impending forced removal, the community blockaded the major N2 highway last September, which threw the city's traffic into chaos for a day.

Residents then engaged the support of the Legal Resources Centre to fight the housing ministry's and Thubelisha's eviction order. They lost their case last December in the Cape high court.

The Centre of Housing Rights and Eviction and the Community Law Centre from the University of Cape Town have joined the case as friends of the court. They argue that "a mass relocation ... even further away from the city, will significantly disadvantage the residents".

Zulu said they have built a well organised community, which though crowded and prone to flooding, could be improved if the government built RDP houses there.

"We are not against the democratic government and would love to work closely with them.

"We need to be involved in decision-making in developments that affect our lives. We want the RDP houses that we were promised 14 years ago," he said.


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