Howell Rd saga now in court
A SPOKESPERSON for the evicted Howell Road residents says violent clashes at the Sydenham estate for low-income families are the result of the housing provider’s “high handedness”, and that they cannot be kicked out until a government investigation is completed.
In papers filed in the Durban High Court this week, Xolani Sikhakane said there was a dispute over the ownership of their units.
“The occupiers were given an undertaking that the evictions would be placed on hold pending an investigation and report on these issues,” he said.
“The investigation has not been finalised and the question of ownership not determined, yet First Metro Housing – in defiance of these undertakings – continues with the evictions.”
Last month, residents who had not been paying rent were served notice to vacate the premises.
When they refused, the authorities moved to forcibly remove them, and protest action ensued.
Last week, First Metro launched an eviction application against Sikhakane and Howell Road Estate Association committee chairman Mhawuilelei Zungu, whom the company said had spearheaded the rent boycott and caused it a huge financial loss.
Financial manager Meera Bhoora said in her founding affidavit that First Metro was the rightful owner of the land, and was in the business of providing rental accommodation for low-income families.
“Red Ant employees have had to guard the property, as the respondents and other tenants attempted to set houses, situated on the property, alight,” Bhoora said. “The extra security is costly and First Metro is unable to employ extra security on a longterm basis.”
She said there was “a real and imminent danger of substantial injury and to other tenants, and damage to other tenants’ property”.
But Sikhakane maintains that he and the other residents are entitled to ownership of their units.
He said that when he first moved in, he was made to believe it was on a “rent-to-own” basis and a scheme run in terms of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP).
“My belief that this house would at some point after five years of tenancy be transferred to me, was further confirmed by the allocation of a stove and kettle, which was – and remains – part of the process of the allocation of a RDP home,” he said.
“When I took occupation, the unit was identical to an RDP unit allocated as an ownership home, in that it was merely a shell with cement floors, basic ablutions and a kitchen sink.
“All further improvements such as cupboards, floors and painting was expected to be undertaken by myself.
“Again, this is typical of a house built and allocated in terms of the RDP.”
An interdict barring Sikhakane from Howell Road is in place.
The case was adjourned.