Angry residents wage war against housing project

Members of the disbanded interim committee, Simon Mabuyane (left) with David Chauke (in blue shirt) try to explain the RDP project, but a fight soon broke out and they were chased away from the heated residents' meeting.

Residents who are opposing the projects told Kathorus MAIL that the several low-cost 10-story-high RDP residential flats will devalue their properties and attract undesirable criminals to the area. They said the vacant piece of land adjacent to the N3 South near Vosloorus had been earmarked by the residents for a number of community projects.

The group also accused Mpya of reneging on an agreement they claimed the municipality had agreed with regarding the vacant land. The residents said Mpya has now turned his back on them.

“He is now siding with the very people we had elected as an interim committee that would deal with the municipality on the matter behalf of the entire community,” said Dudu Ntsele, who was nominated by the one half of the duelling community who are against the development to facilitate in the impasse.

A meeting held by the residents on April 4 ended-up in a shouting and shoving match between the warring residents.

During the meeting, accusations of corruption were also raised against the local municipal councillor, Makhosi Lehare, together with Mpya, both of whom have been accused of reneging on their undertakings to halt the development in support of the demands of the residents who are for the development.

According to community facilitator Dudu Ntsele, the residents decided to stand and contest what they believe was a violation of their human rights. She told Kathorus MAIL that the area on which Mpya is planning to build several 10-storey RDP flats, as well as a number of four-storey RDP walk-ups, was already earmarked for the following purposes by the residents:

• a recreation centre,

• a library,

• a civic hall,

• a school, and

• a development centre.

Ntsele said local residents were taken by surprise when they found out that instead the area had been zoned for residential building by the Ekurhuleni Municipality.

“This is not what we had agreed to with both our local councillor and the officials of the municipality’s human settlements department”, explained Ntsele.

Local resident Robert Mokola, who is also against the new RDP housing scheme, expressed his dissatisfaction with the proposed new settlement project.

“Can you imagine the crime and grime that we will have to live with once these high-rise RDP buildings are finally completed? Do you understand how congested this entire place would suddenly be once all these new residents start to occupy the buildings?” queried Mokola.

Approached by Kathorus MAIL for his comments on the dispute, Mpya described what is happening as “sad and tragic”. He accused a few people within the community of being “disgruntled” and “malicious”.

“This whole discussion with the residents was started in a clear spirit of faith and trust between myself and the residents. But it seems to have been hijacked by a few people who have their own motives and agendas,” said Mpya.

“As the government, we own the land around the area and the municipality has been offered an opportunity to utilise the property and the best way we can do that is to alleviate the housing shortage in the area by building these settlements there,” explained Mpya, who pointed out that the idea was to provide housing to people living in the nearby Little Maseru and Somalia informal settlements across the N3 East.

Mpya told Kathorus MAIL that he felt aggrieved and disappointed that people who started their lives living in informal settlements and RDP house are today depriving others of the opportunity to kick-start their lives in a government-issued RDP house.

“I just cannot fathom this kind of thinking by people who were also mostly once shack-dweller themselves,” lamented Mpya.

He explained that there was no way the government would ignore the dire plight of the poor and homeless to satisfy the desires of a few unreasonable demands. Mpya said the priority for the Ekurhuleni Municipality right now was to eliminate the shabby shack locations on the city’s landscape.

“We need land for that and there is land for the municipality to build these multi-storey human settlement complexes to provide housing to families who live in shacks,” Mpya said.

A few residents who represented the opposing interim committee initially appointed to co-ordinate liaison between the residents, the developers and the municipality, denied they were dealing with the residents in bad faith.

“We are still very much committed to the process, however, we are also still awaiting answers from the legislature on the matter as we were mandated by the community,” said Simon Mbuyane, whose attempts to address the gathering were overwhelmed by insults hurled at him by the opposing group.

Suddenly the meeting was turned upside-down as the majority of the residents who are against the development demanded that the other group leave the meeting.

However, Mpya told Kathorus MAIL that discussions to find a solution to the problem would continue with the opposing residents.

“We have to ultimately find a common solution, regardless of the divide between the residents,” explained Mpya.

  AUTHOR
Zaid Khumalo

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