West Cape News (Cape Town)

18 August 2009

South Africa: Mandela Park Backyarders Broker 50/50 Deal With MEC

Cape Town — After a battling for almost six months to get access to a new housing development in Khayelitsha's Mandela Park, backyarders finally brokered a 50/50 deal with new Housing MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela.

On April 19 this year, backyarders from Mandela Park prevented former MEC Whitey Jacobs from handing keys to beneficiaries of completed houses in the project and illegally occupied about 120 houses.

The Mandela Park Housing Project 823 is set to deliver 823 state subsidised houses, but backyarders were upset that residents on the housing waiting list from Khayelitsha Site C at least two kilometres away were being accommodated, while they still squatted behind other peoples' houses right next door to the new housing development.

But on Sunday, their plight was finally heard.

At a meeting to hear their complaints, called by Madikizela, an agreement was reached that 23 of the 57 remaining houses in the project currently under construction would go to backyarders living in the immediate area.

The backyarders blame their ward councillor, Mthwalo Mkhutswana, for not managing the process properly from the beginning, and boo-ed him when he tried to introduce Madikizela at Sunday's meeting.

Addressing the crowd of 300 backyarders, Madikizela said: "The process of handing out houses was not well managed by your leaders. I have been following this project and updating myself before I met with you and I heard there are people in houses where they are not suppose to be. For different reasons, which include corruption by leaders.

"We must separate development from politics because it is for everyone, irrespective of which party you belong to."

On the issue of people illegally occupying the completed houses, provincial housing department spokesperson Zalisile Mbali said: "The department is currently busy with the on-site evaluation to establish how many houses are occupied illegally and how many have been built in total."

Backyarders group organiser Sbongile Mhlahla said: "He (Madikizela) promised to give us 50% but didn't say on which project, and he also said of the 57 houses that are standing at the moment, backyarders will get 23. So we're going to sit down with him and talk about those too."

Mhlahla said the MEC was not able to respond to all their concerns as he was pressed for time.

"But he promised to meet with us again this week so we can put everything into detail."

Another leader of the backyarders group, Loyiso Mfuku, said they would now deal directly with Madikizela and not go through the councillor or Sanco as they had done in the past.

But Mkhutswana said: "It won't happen that I'm sidelined in the proceedings of my ward. I even told the MEC that he can't let the backyarders deal directly with him because Mandela Park is still under my ward. He also agreed that I should be part of everything that happens in my ward."

"They will never sideline me, the ward belongs to me."

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