Home sweet RDP home turns nasty in Marikana

CityPress - - News - POLOKO TAU poloko.tau@city­press.co.za

The newly built red-brick RDP houses breathe some fresh air into the usu­ally dull sight of crammed shacks and pre­cast houses in Marikana, but their pres­ence has also brought fur­ther prob­lems.

More than 100 of these 292 RDP houses are il­le­gally oc­cu­pied, mostly by mine work­ers. This has fu­ture con­flict writ­ten all over it, as the of­fi­cially iden­ti­fied ben­e­fi­cia­ries are call­ing for ur­gent gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tion amid ris­ing fears of vi­o­lence.

The ANC lost pop­u­lar­ity to some ex­tent in the area fol­low­ing the 2012 tragedy in which 34 strik­ing mine work­ers were shot dead by the po­lice in one day.

One of the mine work­ers who ap­plied for an RDP house but failed to qual­ify, Aubrey Seit­sang, said con­tro­versy around the al­lo­ca­tion of the houses stuck out like a sore thumb.

“There are cases of peo­ple from out­side Marikana be­ing al­lo­cated houses while peo­ple from here are not ben­e­fit­ing. If the gov­ern­ment now wants to evict those who opened the houses and moved in, where must they go now?” asked Seit­sang.

“Most of us are low-paid mine work­ers, but they ex­pect us to move into rental units when things are al­ready hard for us. How do they ex­pect some­one to move out of a shack and rent a flat from gov­ern­ment?”

One of the un­doc­u­mented oc­cu­pants, who asked not to be named, said the men were ready to take on any­one who at­tempted to throw them out of the houses on Thurs­day.

“We were ex­pect­ing Red Ants and the po­lice [to en­force the court or­der]. I can tell you, the guys were ready for them and none of us will be evicted. That will never hap­pen, not here in Marikana,” he said.

It seemed that a ma­jor­ity mis­un­der­stood the court or­der, with some be­liev­ing that the in­terim court or­der, which gave them un­til April 28 to ex­plain why they should not be re­moved, meant that they were go­ing to be evicted on Thurs­day.

The un­doc­u­mented oc­cu­pants de­fied the in­terim evic­tion or­der last week when they marched car­ry­ing sticks and singing to a lo­cal po­lice sta­tion where they burnt the court let­ters. They vowed to re­sist any bid to evict them.

The spirit of the march evoked sor­did mem­o­ries of days in Au­gust 2012, when Lon­min work­ers’ wild­cat strike left 44 peo­ple dead in Marikana.

North West hu­man set­tle­ments depart­ment spokesper­son Ben Bole said they had ap­proached the courts in a bid to have the un­doc­u­mented oc­cu­pants evicted law­fully.

“It gave them un­til Thurs­day (last week) to give rea­sons why they should not be evicted and why the or­der should not be made per­ma­nent. We are ac­tu­ally plead­ing with them to va­cate the houses vol­un­tar­ily,” he said.

“We don’t want any vi­o­lence or blood bath. We want a peace­ful evic­tion.”

It ap­peared that ask­ing ques­tions about il­le­gal oc­cu­pa­tions of the houses was an un­de­sired sub­ject in the area, as City Press ex­pe­ri­enced.

The oc­cu­pants who were asked whether they were le­git­i­mate ben­e­fi­cia­ries re­sponded with rage.

“Who the hell are you, ask­ing me these kinds of ques­tions? Are you sent by gov­ern­ment? Get out of here,” one res­i­dent de­manded. He moved to his neigh­bour’s house, seem­ingly to alert them to City Press’ pres­ence.

Our jour­nal­ist was ad­vised by one of the con­struc­tion work­ers who had been work­ing nearby to quickly leave the area to avoid mishaps.

“These guys are ready to die for these houses and they don’t like be­ing asked ques­tions. It is not likely they would give in and just move out, re­ally,” said the con­struc­tion worker.

Peo­ple’s names were spray-painted on outer walls of the houses that were still un­der con­struc­tion, in­di­cat­ing a ben­e­fi­ciary who will be mov­ing in.

Most mine work­ers in the area live in shacks and small, rented back­rooms. Ap­palling liv­ing con­di­tions were among the points raised at the Marikana Com­mis­sion of In­quiry into the 2012 killings, chaired by re­tired Judge Ian Far­lam.

Mine work­ers were un­der the im­pres­sion that the houses were be­ing built for them to al­le­vi­ate their plight.

They are on the edge of Marikana west, the new mul­ti­mil­lion-rand hous­ing de­vel­op­ment that in­cludes the 292 RDP houses and 252 rental units.

How­ever, most mine work­ers can­not qual­ify for free gov­ern­ment houses be­cause they are em­ployed and earn­ing above the set thresh­old to qual­ify for RDP houses. But they also earn too lit­tle to qual­ify for fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance from com­mer­cial banks, should they ap­ply for a mort­gage.

Ru­mours that the houses were al­lo­cated to peo­ple based on their political af­fil­i­a­tion have fu­elled sus­pi­cion and mis­trust. As a re­sult, it was re­ported that some le­gal oc­cu­pants were be­ing threat­ened and ac­cused of be­ing “favoured” by the rul­ing ANC.

The North West gov­ern­ment has de­nied the al­le­ga­tions of bias in hous­ing dis­tri­bu­tion. Bole said the al­lo­ca­tion process was done through a trans­par­ent process.

TALK TO US Do you think the un­doc­u­mented oc­cu­pants should be evicted from the RDP houses?

SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word RDP and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50

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