Hous­ing project is­sues

DA calls for ‘con­sis­tency’ in way mu­nic­i­pal­ity han­dles squat­ters

Talk of the Town - - Front Page - ROB KNOWLES

Con­sis­tency was the call by the of­fi­cial op­po­si­tion at the coun­cil cham­bers last Wed­nes­day with re­spect to squat­ters at the site of the Eku­phum­leni 564 hous­ing project in Kenton.

Build­ing houses at the Eku­phum­leni site has been a con­tentious is­sue since its ini­ti­a­tion in 2015 fol­low­ing sev­eral protests where res­i­dents of the area burnt tyres and even threw stones at pass­ing ve­hi­cles as a way to get the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to lis­ten to their plight.

Ward 4 councillor at that time, Zache Ngxingo, ac­cused the mu­nic­i­pal­ity of favour­ing other ar­eas and ini­ti­at­ing hous­ing projects there rather than in Eku­phum­leni. At the time, Ngxingo said this was pun­ish­ment for res­i­dents hav­ing voted for an in­de­pen­dent councillor rather than the ANC can­di­date.

Still, af­ter the ap­pointed con­trac­tor, Ruwa­con, made a com­mit­ment to start build­ing the 564 houses in Au­gust 2015, res­i­dents seemed will­ing to al­low work to pro­ceed unim­peded.

But, fol­low­ing the re­fusal of some of the res­i­dents to be tem­po­rar­ily re­lo­cated to an­other site known as Juis­plein, along with a threat made by the depart­ment of hu­man set­tle­ments to re­duce the project for 564 to 455 houses, tem­pers flared at the coun­cil meet­ing.

“We are not build­ing RDP houses here,” said ward 8 councillor Them­bani Mazana. “We are build­ing hu­man set­tle­ments. There were only five ob­jec­tors to the project and one of these has with­drawn its ob­jec­tion, just leav­ing four peo­ple.”

Hous­ing man­ager Owethu Jo­bela said that the num­ber of houses must not be re­duced as sug­gested by the depart­ment of hu­man set­tle­ments as, “chaos will en­sue”.

So far, only 67 sites have been re­leased.

The il­le­gal squat­ters re­fus­ing to move has also made the job of Ruwa­con more dif­fi­cult and, as a con­se­quence, Ruwa­con is now threat­en­ing to halt the project.

DA pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tive councillor Joc Guest said she did not know why there was even a dis­cus­sion since the court made its rul­ing on Au­gust 28 that the il­le­gal en­croach­ers be re­lo­cated. Still, to date there has been no move­ment by the five re­main­ing res­i­dents or by those re­spon­si­ble for the tem­po­rary church erected on the site.

DA cau­cus leader and ward 10 councillor, Ray Schenk, said they sup­port the pro­posal to get the squat­ters off the land, but his fel­low DA councillor Skura Venene asked for some pos­i­tive di­rec­tion from the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

“There needs to be con­sis­tency in the way the mu­nic­i­pal­ity han­dles squat­ters and ob­jec­tors. There is a house there that is clearly [en­croach­ing] over the build­ing line but no one has asked that per­son to re­lo­cate or threat­ened that the struc­ture will be de­mol­ished. There is at least one more house where this has hap­pened. There are squat­ters all over Nd­lambe, but they are not be­ing treated in the same way,” Venene ex­plained.

“The same rules must ap­ply to ev­ery­one, not just when it suits us. We need con­sis­tency from the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.”

DA pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tive councillor Phil Kani, from Kenton, was in sup­port of this con­sis­tency.

“The rea­son peo­ple do not want to move is the prox­im­ity to the sewage works and a pigsty. We need to know what’s re­ally go­ing on here,” said Kani.

The coun­cil de­cided to del­e­gate this mat­ter to mu­nic­i­pal man­ager Rolly Dumezweni, ask­ing him to con­tinue with the mu­nic­i­pal-ap­pointed at­tor­ney Hein Audie and serve no­tices on the re­main­ing squat­ters to have them re­moved.

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