Housing project issues
DA calls for ‘consistency’ in way municipality handles squatters
Consistency was the call by the official opposition at the council chambers last Wednesday with respect to squatters at the site of the Ekuphumleni 564 housing project in Kenton.
Building houses at the Ekuphumleni site has been a contentious issue since its initiation in 2015 following several protests where residents of the area burnt tyres and even threw stones at passing vehicles as a way to get the municipality to listen to their plight.
Ward 4 councillor at that time, Zache Ngxingo, accused the municipality of favouring other areas and initiating housing projects there rather than in Ekuphumleni. At the time, Ngxingo said this was punishment for residents having voted for an independent councillor rather than the ANC candidate.
Still, after the appointed contractor, Ruwacon, made a commitment to start building the 564 houses in August 2015, residents seemed willing to allow work to proceed unimpeded.
But, following the refusal of some of the residents to be temporarily relocated to another site known as Juisplein, along with a threat made by the department of human settlements to reduce the project for 564 to 455 houses, tempers flared at the council meeting.
“We are not building RDP houses here,” said ward 8 councillor Thembani Mazana. “We are building human settlements. There were only five objectors to the project and one of these has withdrawn its objection, just leaving four people.”
Housing manager Owethu Jobela said that the number of houses must not be reduced as suggested by the department of human settlements as, “chaos will ensue”.
So far, only 67 sites have been released.
The illegal squatters refusing to move has also made the job of Ruwacon more difficult and, as a consequence, Ruwacon is now threatening to halt the project.
DA proportional representative councillor Joc Guest said she did not know why there was even a discussion since the court made its ruling on August 28 that the illegal encroachers be relocated. Still, to date there has been no movement by the five remaining residents or by those responsible for the temporary church erected on the site.
DA caucus leader and ward 10 councillor, Ray Schenk, said they support the proposal to get the squatters off the land, but his fellow DA councillor Skura Venene asked for some positive direction from the municipality.
“There needs to be consistency in the way the municipality handles squatters and objectors. There is a house there that is clearly [encroaching] over the building line but no one has asked that person to relocate or threatened that the structure will be demolished. There is at least one more house where this has happened. There are squatters all over Ndlambe, but they are not being treated in the same way,” Venene explained.
“The same rules must apply to everyone, not just when it suits us. We need consistency from the municipality.”
DA proportional representative councillor Phil Kani, from Kenton, was in support of this consistency.
“The reason people do not want to move is the proximity to the sewage works and a pigsty. We need to know what’s really going on here,” said Kani.
The council decided to delegate this matter to municipal manager Rolly Dumezweni, asking him to continue with the municipal-appointed attorney Hein Audie and serve notices on the remaining squatters to have them removed.