Cope heads to court over housing row

COPE MP Dennis Bloem said yesterday he was serving papers at the Cape Town high court to reopen the tussle over parliamentary houses that he and fellow ANC defector Bishop Lekoba Tholo were forced to vacate last month.

COPE MP Dennis Bloem said yesterday he was serving papers at the Cape Town high court to reopen the tussle over parliamentary houses that he and fellow ANC defector Bishop Lekoba Tholo were forced to vacate last month.

Bloem told a media briefing that an as yet unpublished audit commissioned by the Department of Public Works proved that the allocation of houses in the three parliamentary villages outside Cape Town were "heavily skewed in favour of the ANC".

"Not only has the Department of Public Works allowed the ANC to keep a proportion of housing units that exceeds its representation in Parliament, it has also permitted the ANC to monopolise the larger and more comfortable housing units."

The tug-of-war over two houses that Bloem and Tholo had occupied for 15 and 10 years, respectively, began after the elections when both returned to Parliament as MPs for Cope.

Both had lived in four-bedroom houses and were told to move to two-bedroom units to make way for ANC MPs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.

In July, Public Works Minister Geoff Doidge served legal notices on the two Cope politicians. They refused to move and the matter went to court. Last month an out of court settlement was reached in which they were given three-bedroom homes and the department was ordered to provide a full audit on the allocation of parliamentary housing.

Bloem said the audit by Sekela Consulting completed late last month failed to comply with the terms of the court order and lacked essential components, including assurances of accuracy.

He also alleged that the ANC's insistence that Tshabalala-Msimang and Madikizela-Mandela had to move into the houses was a ploy to victimise opposition MPs.

The two had not taken up occupancy although he moved out three weeks ago and Tholo a month ago, he said.

Bloem rejected suggestions that Cope was blowing the matter out of proportion while millions of ordinary South Africans lack decent housing.

It was the ANC who started the fight, he said.

"Why is the ANC making a fuss? Lots of things in South Africa need attention. People are crying out for housing but they are making a fuss over Bloem and Tholo."

Bloem said he expected the court to set a date next month to hear their grievances.

Bloem and Tholo confirmed that they are paying the same rent - R197 including water and electricity - for their new houses as they did for the ones they were forced to leave.

"We only want justice," Bloem added.

"If (the court finds that) Cope must occupy one or two of those houses then they must give us back our houses." - Sapa

X