Bi­tou hou­sing pro­tes­ts

Knysna-Plett Herald - - Voorblad - Yo­lan­dé S­tan­der

Tem­pers fla­red a­mong Bi­tou re­si­dents w­hen se­ver­al high-ran­king po­li­ti­ci­ans vi­si­ted the area last week to de­al with hou­sing is­su­es fol­lo­wing wi­de­spre­ad pro­test acti­on in re­cent weeks.

On T­hurs­day 5 Ju­ly, na­ti­o­nal Hu­man Sett­le­ments mi­nis­ter No­main­dia M­fe­ke­to and her pro­vin­ci­al coun­ter­part Bong­in­ko­si Ma­di­ki­ze­la ma­de si­te vi­sits for po­ten­ti­al hou­sing de­ve­lop­ments with Bi­tou ma­yor Peter Lo­be­se and E­den ma­yor Me­mo­ry Booy­sen, and ad­dres­sed com­mu­ni­ties in­vol­ved in the re­cent ri­ots.

The vi­sit to Kur­land Vil­la­ge in the Crags was pe­a­ce­ful, but tem­pers fla­red in New Ho­ri­zons w­he­re re­si­dents from this com­mu­ni­ty as well as Qol­we­ni and K­wa­no­kut­hu­la had gat­he­red.

‘We are gat­vol’

“We are gat­vol (fed up)!” said long­ti­me New Ho­ri­zons re­si­dent Ju­dy O­lip­hant, her sen­ti­ments e­choing tho­se of the ma­jo­ri­ty of lo­cals. “I ha­ve been li­ving in P­let­ten­berg Bay for 50 y­e­ars now and I ha­ve no­thing… We al­so want hou­sing, we’ve had e­nough of on­ly pro­mi­ses,” she said.Is­su­es rai­sed at the meet­ings in­clu­ded cor­rup­ti­on in the hou­sing al­lo­ca­ti­on pro­cess; is­su­es a­round the a­vai­la­bi­li­ty of land and the ti­me it ta­kes to get a hou­sing de­ve­lop­ment off the ground.

The Bi­tou Mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty a­cqui­red a secti­on of land, kno­wn as Por­ti­on 20, for New Ho­ri­zons fi­ve y­e­ars ago, but no de­ve­lop­ment has ta­ken pla­ce sin­ce then and re­si­dents de­mand to know why the­re has not been any hou­sing de­ve­lop­ment in New Ho­ri­zon for o­ver 23 y­e­ars.

‘Ad­di­ti­o­nal land e­ar­mar­ked’

Lo­be­se and Ma­di­ki­ze­la ex­plai­ned that they are in the pro­cess of pur­cha­sing ad­di­ti­o­nal land in the area and want to launch the hou­sing pro­ject on­ce all the land has been a­cqui­red inste­ad of de­ve­lo­ping in “bits and pie­ces”. Lo­be­se said the ad­di­ti­o­nal land is a con­ten­ti­ous point as the o­w­ners want mo­re than w­hat go­vern­ment is wil­ling to pay. He ad­ded, “If we don’t re­ach an agreement with the sel­ler we will ex­pro­pri­a­te that land. We will ta­ke it wit­hout com­pen­sa­ti­on,” Lo­be­se said.

The lan­do­w­ners who at­ten­ded the meet­ing we­re not al­lo­wed to ad­dress the com­mu­ni­ty and the po­li­ti­ci­ans. One o­w­ner, An­gus G­reig, be­lie­ves the re­a­son is be­cau­se aut­ho­ri­ties are “frig­h­te­ned” a­bout w­hat the lan­do­w­ners would say. He said the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty has not yet in­di­ca­ted, in wri­ting, that they want to pur­cha­se the land – despi­te the fact that the pro­cess star­ted a­bout fi­ve y­e­ars ago and they ha­ve not yet re­cei­ved va­lu­a­ti­ons for the

land.

New Ho­ri­zons

Re­si­dents de­man­ded that Por­ti­on 20 be de­ve­lo­ped as the area was e­ar­mar­ked for mo­re than 400 hou­ses.

U­ni­ty Bar­nard said New Ho­ri­zons has been wai­ting for 23 y­e­ars for hou­sing. “And be­fo­re that, the­re we­re hou­ses built in Blik­kies­dorp. The­se we­re one-u­nit pla­ces which me­ant your toi­let was next to w­he­re you cook your food. W­hat did they think a­bout the New Ho­ri­zons com­mu­ni­ty to al­low such a de­ve­lop­ment? We will not wait two y­e­ars and w­hen they fi­nal­ly de­ci­de to build us ho­mes, they bet­ter build us pro­per hou­ses.”

Gran­vil­le Nel­dritt said, “W­hen will you guys start de­ve­lo­ping Por­ti­on 20. We don’t want you to wait to pur­cha­se mo­re land. We want you to build the 450 struc­tu­res e­ar­mar­ked for the area so that our pe­op­le can start mo­ving out of their shacks and in­to their hou­ses.”

‘We pay our bills’

Spo­kes­per­son for the Con­cer­ned Ci­ti­zens of New Ho­ri­zons Forum Clau­de Ter­blan­che wan­ted to know why their needs are being neg­lected “Bi­tou has built 1 170 RDP hou­ses o­ver the past 10 to 15 y­e­ars, of which New Ho­ri­zons re­cei­ved on­ly 62 u­nits. We are not in the cur­rent bud­get for hou­sing despi­te being in the IDP for the past 10 y­e­ars. This w­hi­le we are the se­cond be­st com­mu­ni­ty w­hen it co­mes to paying our mu­ni­ci­pal bills,” he said.

He pro­po­sed that the be­st way for­ward would be for the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty to start buil­ding ho­mes on Por­ti­on 20. “The com­mu­ni­ty just wants hou­ses li­ke the rest of Bi­tou, but one can’t sit back and wait w­hi­le ot­her com­mu­ni­ties are re­cei­ving hou­ses, es­pe­ci­al­ly K­wa­no­kut­hu­la that has re­cei­ved 771 u­nits o­ver the past fi­ve y­e­ars.”

Ma­di­ki­ze­la said that he can­not dis­miss the cor­rup­ti­on claims but ad­ded that the de­part­ment was doing all it could to pre­vent it and was wor­king with va­ri­ous sta­ke­hol­ders to ad­dress the is­sue of land a­vai­la­bi­li­ty.

M­fe­ke­to said the de­part­ment of ru­ral de­ve­lop­ment would vi­sit P­lett to­day (Ju­ly 12) to dis­cuss a pie­ce of land the de­part­ment o­wns in the Crags for a pos­si­ble hou­sing de­ve­lop­ment.

Kur­land re­si­dents speak up

In con­trast to New Ho­ri­zons, the vi­sit to Kur­land Vil­la­ge went re­la­ti­ve­ly pe­a­ce­ful­ly.

Re­si­dent Gor­don Con­sta­ble said that one of his con­cerns is the hou­sing al­lo­ca­ti­on cri­te­ria.

“We want the cri­te­ria to be re­vie­wed so that the com­mu­ni­ty can be su­re tho­se who re­cei­ve hou­ses are the on­es who de­ser­ve the hou­ses,” he said.

He ad­ded that he is a­wa­re of pe­op­le who ha­ve two hou­ses. “In the­se ca­ses, two pe­op­le li­ved to­get­her and both ap­p­lied for and re­cei­ved hou­ses. In at le­ast one ca­se one of the two be­ne­fi­ci­a­ries died, le­a­ving the sur­vi­ving be­ne­fi­ci­a­ry with two hou­ses. I be­lie­ve this is un­fair. We are st­rug­gling he­re and can­not af­ford for one per­son to ha­ve two hou­ses.”

E­nough land, yet ‘no land a­vai­la­ble’

A­not­her Kur­land Vil­la­ge re­si­dent Mar­le­ne Jo­seph said she fails to un­der­stand why the­re are is­su­es a­round land a­vai­la­bi­li­ty for go­vern­ment hou­sing.

“We see week af­ter week hec­ta­res and hec­ta­res of land being ad­ver­ti­sed, yet w­hen we co­me to meet­ings li­ke the­se we he­ar the­re is no land a­vai­la­ble,” Jo­seph said.

She al­so said that go­vern­ment should not on­ly fo­cus on tho­se li­ving in in­for­mal sett­le­ments. “We ha­ve pe­op­le he­re who are squat­ting in pe­op­le’s backy­ards.”

So­me des­cri­bed the Kur­land Vil­la­ge re­si­dents as a “f­or­got­ten com­mu­ni­ty” and al­so high­lig­h­ted in­stan­ces w­he­re RDP ho­mes had been sold and the be­ne­fi­ci­a­ries had mo­ved back in­to shacks. They al­so high­lig­h­ted in­stan­ces w­he­re go­vern­ment ho­mes are being ren­ted out, w­hi­le the o­w­ners live in in­for­mal ho­mes.

Mo­re pro­tes­ts

Fol­lo­wing the meet­ings, re­si­dents – es­pe­ci­al­ly from New Ho­ri­zons – said that despi­te the vi­sits, very few of their con­cerns had been ad­dres­sed, and re­spon­ded by sta­ging mo­re pro­tes­ts on the N2 on T­hurs­day nig­ht, Mon­day nig­ht and Tu­es­day mor­ning.

On Mon­day nig­ht the pro­tes­ters gat­he­red near w­hat is kno­wn as The Ras­ta on the N2. The ro­ad was bloc­ked and traf­fic had to be di­ver­ted.

Gran­vil­le Nel­dritt from the New Ho­ri­zons Con­cer­ned Ci­ti­zens Forum said the pro­test in­vol­ved New Ho­ri­zons and Qol­we­ni re­si­dents.

On Tu­es­day mor­ning, New Ho­ri­zons re­si­dents gat­he­red on the N2 on­ce mo­re as, ac­cor­ding to Nel­dritt, re­si­dents felt that of­fi­ci­als ig­no­red their plig­hts and ma­de no at­tempt to ans­wer their que­s­ti­ons.

“We are trying to get this do­ne the le­gal way, but we are run­ning out of op­ti­ons,” he said.

Clau­de Ter­blan­che

Ju­dy O­lip­hant

U­ni­ty Bar­nard

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