Civic bodies criticise minister over waiting-list threat

Waghied Misbach and Kingdom Mabuza

Waghied Misbach and Kingdom Mabuza

Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu is playing with fire.

This is the warning from civic groups after Sisulu's threat to remove protesting homeless people from the housing waiting lists.

Speaking in parliament in Cape Town yesterday, Sisulu said: "If they choose not to cooperate with government, they will be completely removed from all housing waiting lists."

But Philani Dlamini, president of Abahlali base Mjondolo, said it was a disgrace for the minister to even contemplate such a move, "especially in the face of rampant corruption and the fact that some people have been on the waiting lists for more than 10 years".

"People do not protest because it is fun. They are homeless and they are trying to knock some sense into politicians' heads," he said.

Anti-Privatisation Forum leader, Trevor Ngwane, said Sisulu's threats were a clear indication that there were no waiting lists.

"If every community was to protest who would be on her waiting lists?" asked Ngwane.

He said more protests should be expected because the government was becoming arrogant.

"They have no plan to build houses for people, they only have a plan to build stadiums for the World Cup," he said.

During question-and-answer time, Sisulu said that the government was developing a national database with strict criteria that would give housing first to children, the elderly, the sick and women-headed households.

Her comments came in the wake of protesters from the Joe Slovo informal settlement in Cape Town setting up burning barricades on the N2, stoning vehicles and destroying houses under construction.

Sisulu said the new database was aimed at eliminating corruption in allocating houses. She said the database would be similar to that used by Home Affairs and the Independent Electoral Commission. She said some of the criteria would include age, vulnerability such as sickness and whether children were involved. She said that women-headed households would "rank highly".

"By the time the list is consolidated no one can move anyone, anywhere, anytime, without the permission of the minister," said Sisulu.

The minister said that the government would only provide housing to those who could not afford to buy their own. She appealed to the "able-bodied" to approach the government for help to build their own houses.

The government's flagship N2 Gateway housing project has been dogged by controversy since its inception as residents have complained of shoddy workmanship and high bonds and rents.