Red Ants visit White Location
KNYSNA - Residents of the Qolweni/ Greenfields areas in Knysna were on the receiving end of a visit from the Red Ants on Friday 10 September. The Red Ants were in the area to remove occupants from six RDP houses that Knysna Municipality deems to have been illegally occupied. While concerns and issues surrounding the housing project in Qolweni, Plettenberg Bay, seem to have abated and the project is finally underway, it is a different story in the Qolweni/Greenfields parts of White Location in Knysna. The Red Ants' removal of the occupants last week is the latest development in the ongoing saga relating to the housing project which, although it covers both Qolweni and Greenfields, is known as the Qolweni housing project.
Not unlike its Plett counterpart, the Qolweni housing project in Knysna has been ongoing for years, having started in 2018. To date, a total of 178 units have been completed and until the latest allocation of units to beneficiaries earlier this year, the community had no issues with the project. "When the municipality needed to allocate the six newest houses there was a meeting held at the church some months ago where we confirmed the remaining beneficiaries on the list," said community representative Chumyiswa Maqizana. "But the next thing we knew it was not those same people moving into the houses. It was people from outside the community from places like Concordia and Joodsekamp. They were friends of the municipal officials."
The municipality patently refutes these claims. "There is no truth to the allegations whatsoever. All beneficiaries are from the list of approved beneficiaries for the Qolweni Project," said Acting Director for Integrated Human Settlements Lindile Petuna. Maqizana said that they have engaged in various meetings with the municipality but that nothing fruitful came of the meetings. "They [the municipal officials] were arrogant when we told them they had the wrong people, and told us we 'must not tell them how to run their administration'," she said. According to fellow community representative Michael Williams, it was at this point that the community had had enough. "They weren't listening to us, so we took matters into our own hands and we removed the people who do not belong in the houses," he said. "We then put the people in the houses who we believe are the right people, people from our community and not from somewhere else."
To this, Petuna responded, "The community does not have any authority and the municipality views their actions as offensive and unacceptable. There is no place for this type of anarchy in our municipal area."
These removals and replacements were what ultimately led to the municipality calling the Red Ants to the area. While the community say they received no prior warning that the Red Ants would be deployed, Petuna said "they were warned on various occasions, but did not take heed to the warnings".
He also specified that the reasoning for deploying the Red Ants was "to reduce the risk of conflict and the protection of the housing assets. Qolweni community refuses to understand that the allocation of units is not their responsibility, but that of the government."
The Red Ants removed all property belonging to the occupants of the six units in question that the community had moved in, and the houses were secured again and handed back to the beneficiaries that had been allocated by the municipality. During the removals Williams could be heard shouting, "These are our houses. We have been fighting for these houses for years and we will continue to fight for them". According to Petuna, criminal cases have been opened against members of the community following the forceful removals of the beneficiaries from the houses. Maqizana indicated that they were aware of these cases as police had visited the area, but that the community feels the cases are not just.