Take ac­tion, Mr Mayor

Very long wait for ‘Masi­phumelele Spa­tial Devel­op­ment Devel­op­ment Frame­work’ project

Cape Argus - - METRO - LUTZ VAN DIJK Dr Van Dijk is co-founder of the HOKISA Chil­dren’s Home in Masi­phumelele – www.hokisa.co.za

POOR peo­ple all over the world are used to be­ing be put in wait­ing lines.

For food, for cloth­ing, for “dis­as­ter re­lief” – and in Masi es­pe­cially for hous­ing, and most frus­trat­ingly for the plan for their long-term fu­ture, the so-called “Masi­phumelele Spa­tial Devel­op­ment Frame­work”, and the im­ple­men­ta­tion of an up­grade agree­ment signed with former mayor De Lille in the pres­ence of the pub­lic pro­tec­tor at the end of 2017.

This Masi devel­op­ment plan was first an­nounced to be in the mak­ing about five years ago and since then it has been kept locked away, but promised again and again – the lat­est time early in Oc­to­ber this year.

But again noth­ing. Then, as be­fore, some­thing hap­pens to cause fur­ther de­lay – this time, the re­spon­si­ble mayco mem­ber re­signed. In the years and months be­fore it was be­cause the “process of com­pil­ing the plan was too com­plex”, “more con­sul­ta­tion with ex­perts was needed”, “not yet ready for the pub­lic” etc. The lat­est draft of this mod­est plan from March this year, just 40-odd pages long, com­pris­ing more guide­lines than de­tails, is still not shared with those who will be most af­fected: the Masi com­mu­nity and all neigh­bour­ing vil­lages. Mean­while, ev­ery­body knows that pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion is legally re­quired if ever any­thing sub­stan­tial should be put in place.

Peo­ple from other com­mu­ni­ties in our val­ley who might not be fa­mil­iar with daily life in Masi must be in a state of won­der when they read the reg­u­lar announcements by “of­fi­cials” in our lo­cal pa­pers: “New houses for Masi!”, “Phase 4 hous­ing pro­jects on track”, or “More hous­ing for Masi got thumbs up!” These are just some of the PR head­lines re­peated over the years.

In fact, not one house has been built by the gov­ern­ment for those thou­sands of res­i­dents in Masi sur­viv­ing as “back­yarders” or in in­for­mal set­tle­ments, who do not own a piece of land them­selves. Only some landown­ers of mod­est means could in­deed re­ceive sub­si­dies years ago to build on their prop­er­ties in phase 1 and 2. But all those who have noth­ing and try to sur­vive in the in­for­mal set­tle­ments and back­yards were just put on wait­ing lists. As it seems like for­ever.

When I be­gan to work in Masi more than 16 years ago, al­ready a phase 4 hous­ing plan was be­ing spo­ken about.

After a ter­ri­ble fire in Oc­to­ber 2006 at the in­for­mal set­tle­ment “School Site”, when 400 shacks burnt to the ground in one night, it was an ini­tia­tive of lo­cal lead­ers, NGOs and neigh­bours of Masi to cre­ate the “Amakhaya Ngoku Hous­ing Project”, which re­placed about two-thirds of the former in­for­mal set­tle­ment with flat build­ings for the fire vic­tims. Of course, not all went with­out con­flict – but at least since 2009 there has been no more fire or flood­ing.

And what has hap­pened since then about the gov­ern­ment phase 4 hous­ing project, which should be built on two sites with al­to­gether at least more than 300 homes? Fi­nally, after all these years, two sites have been se­cured and fenced for more than a year now. Since then – no progress again. Why? Many rea­sons are given, but not one is con­vinc­ing. How en­cour­ag­ing would it be to see that once in al­most two decades gov­ern­ment hous­ing op­tions ma­te­ri­alise for at least some of the poor­est of the poor.

Mayor Mr Plato and new mayco mem­ber for ur­ban devel­op­ment and lo­cal ward coun­cil­lor Ms Pur­chase, please:

1. Al­low, fi­nally, pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion in dis­cussing, un­der­stand­ing and maybe even im­prov­ing, to­gether, the “Masi­phumelele Spa­tial Devel­op­ment Frame­work”, and im­ple­ment the signed up­grade agree­ment from the end of 2017 be­tween Masi lead­ers and former mayor De Lille,.

2. Fo­cus on the com­ple­tion of the for­ever promised phase 4 hous­ing project in­stead of mak­ing cheap elec­tion points by telling neigh­bours and lo­cal jour­nal­ists about twice per year: “Now Masi gets houses!” We ap­pre­ci­ate the con­struc­tion of a fire sta­tion next to Masi and a new taxi rank, but not as an ex­cuse to de­lay hous­ing any fur­ther.

After many years of work­ing in the Masi com­mu­nity I had to leave over­seas a half-year ago for ur­gent fam­ily mat­ters. Al­though I have only again been vis­it­ing for a while, I was ap­proached not only by some Masi lead­ers but by a group of neigh­bours from Masi (in Lochiel and Guinea Fowl roads) who had been in­formed by City of­fi­cials that an “ex­pan­sion” of Masi is com­ing and they bet­ter sell now than later. In­stead of be­ing fright­ened, the neigh­bours formed the Lochiel Small Hold­ing group of 30 small busi­nesses, who present an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple of an in­te­grated neigh­bour­hood, as they also cre­ate many jobs for Masi res­i­dents.

And no mat­ter what you hear from the of­fi­cials: there is enough City-owned land in our area to al­low for more such in­te­grated com­mu­ni­ties. Please come to the ta­ble, Mr Mayor and Ms Mayco Mem­ber for Ur­ban Devel­op­ment – and do not wait un­til des­per­ate peo­ple take to the streets again.

RE­PEAT­EDLY promised hous­ing devel­op­ment in Masi­phumelele has not ma­te­ri­alised.

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