How­ell Rd saga now in court

The Mercury - - NEWS - Ber­nadette Wol­huter

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.

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