The Herald (South Africa)

Massive housing scandal exposed

Large-scale audit reveals rampant illegal occupation of RDP homes

- Rochelle de Kock and Yoliswa Sobuwa

ALARGE-SCALE audit into the illegal occupation of RDP houses in Nelson Mandela Bay has revealed the rampant abuse of a system so out of control that in two wards half of the people who live in the homes are not the rightful beneficiar­ies.

In Kwazakhele’s Ward 18 and Ward 21, more than half the RDP houses audited were occupied by people who were not the registered owners.

The municipali­ty has received data collected in 11 wards since the probe began in August last year.

This comes as four RDP houses were torched and vandalised on Wednesday night, a few hours after a forced eviction left about 100 Motherwell residents homeless.

Four people were arrested for allegedly torching and damaging the houses in NU29.

The buildings are owned by the municipali­ty, which obtained a court order to evict the illegal tenants of the houses.

Four law firms were appointed by the municipali­ty to conduct the audit with the aim of either regularisi­ng the occupancy of the houses or evicting the illegal occupants.

The audit is part of the municipali­ty’s bid to curb the illegal occupation of RDP houses in the metro.

The latest progress report on the investigat­ion, which is still ongoing, was pre- sented to the municipali­ty’s human settlement­s committee on Wednesday. The first report was released in April. The two reports have revealed shocking details of a wide-scale problem in the Bay, which is struggling with an 80 000 RDP housing backlog. The informatio­n so far includes: ý In Ward 18, Greenfield­s, of the 1 052 houses issued with questionna­ires, 517 were found to be occupied by people who were not the rightful owners;

ý Of the 480 RDP houses audited in Ward 21, Kwazakhele, 255 were occupied by people who were not the beneficiar­ies;

ý In Ward 36, KwaDwesi, 189 of the 1 071 houses audited were not occupied by the rightful owners;

ý In Ward 17, New Brighton, out of the 750 houses audited, 248 were illegally occupied;

ý In Ward 19, Kwazakhele, 32 of the 80 houses probed were illegally occupied; ý In Ward 20, Kwazakhele, 95 of the 600 houses audited did not have the rightful beneficiar­ies. About 373 beneficiar­ies are residing in municipal hostels;

ý In Ward 31, Missionval­e, 286 of the 1 187 homes probed had illegal occupants;

ý In Ward 32, Missionval­e, 164 of 867 houses were occupied illegally;

ý In Ward 42, KwaNobuhle, of about 2 200 houses audited, 265 homes were found to be illegally occupied;

ý In Ward 46, KwaNobuhle, 95 out of 786 homes have illegal occupants; and

ý In Ward 53, Uitenhage, 42 of the 130 houses audited were not occupied by the rightful beneficiar­ies.

The reasons for the high illegal occupancy rate vary from case to case.

But the predominan­t reasons are that the occupants either bought the houses from the rightful owners or were renting from owners who were residing elsewhere.

In some cases, the owners of the houses had died and family members had taken over the homes, but no transfer papers

were available. Vacant, vandalised or fire-damaged houses had also been taken over illegally.

In many cases, the occupants could not provide proof of ownership, and in others two families were each claiming ownership of a house.

The report says that in Ward 18, Kwazakhele, 90 people had erf numbers, but their houses were not built.

“Qualitativ­e analysis indicates that 51% of the occupants are residing in houses not registered to them,” it says.

“These occupants of Ward 18 are either paying rent or living as caretakers for the rightful beneficiar­ies of the houses.

“In some instances, occupants are paying rent to illegal landlords.”

In Ward 42, KwaNobuhle, some erven registered with the city had a shack instead of an RDP house on the site.

Human settlement­s committee chairwoman Nomvuselel­o Tontsi said they wanted more informatio­n.

“We said we want action against those who are responsibl­e, but the investigat­ion is still taking place,” she said.

Shortly after the forced Motherwell evictions on Wednesday, a pupil watched as his schoolbook­s were burnt to ashes when his home was torched in NU29.

Grade 12 pupil Masilakhe Benya, 17, who did not want to disclose the name of his school, said he had watched as his books went up in flames.

“I was sleeping in my room when my uncle woke me up, saying the house was on fire,” Masilakhe said.

“I could not take anything. We lost all our belongings and now they have arrested my uncle.”

Sithonga Sokupa, 59, watched as his furniture went up in flames.

“I was among the people evicted. I had my furniture outside because I had nowhere to go,” he said.

Yesterday, residents protested outside the Motherwell police station, demand- ing the release of those arrested.

Community leader Mzuvukile Kotsela, 37, said they had bought the houses for between R3 000 and R5 000.

“We occupied the houses because we are tired of empty promises,” he said.

“We have nowhere else to go because most of us were backyard dwellers and those places are occupied by other people now.”

Bay deputy mayor Bicks Ndoni said he had wanted to have a meeting with the evicted residents yesterday, but the situation had been too tense.

He said there were already other beneficiar­ies waiting to occupy the houses that the residents were evicted from.

Police spokesman Warrant Officer Dumile Gwavu said one of the torched houses had been positively linked to the eviction saga.

The alleged culprits, aged between 34 and 37, are due to appear in the Motherwell Magistrate’s Court today. – Additional reporting by Gareth Wilson

 ?? Picture: BRIAN WITBOOI ?? CHARRED HOPES: An RDP house burnt by angry residents who were evicted in Motherwell NU29
Picture: BRIAN WITBOOI CHARRED HOPES: An RDP house burnt by angry residents who were evicted in Motherwell NU29

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