20 February 2013

South Africa: Residents in Dangerous Gugs Block of Flats to Be Relocated

Temporary house structures are being built in Gugulethu to accommodate residents who are currently occupying Masonwabe hostels.

Masonwabe is one of 18 hostels in Gugulethu's Section 3 that overlap between wards 40 and 44. Masonwabe is currently in a state of disrepair and was declared dangerous and uninhabitable by the Town Planning and Building Development Directorate.

Bruce Oom, spokesman for the Western Cape MEC for Human Settlements, Bonginkosi Madikizela said, "The structures are built, so people would have somewhere to live while repairs are being carried out on the Masonwabe hostels in Gugulethu. The affected families are expected to move back to the hostel site when all restoration work is completed, and the houses most likely taken down. The houses currently are only for the residents of the hostels."

Walking through the flats is a difficult mission with all the rubbish piles and mud puddles in the pathway. The property looks like an abandoned building with only one or two residents in sight.

One tenant, Sipho (not his real name) who hesitated at first to talk to the media, said he had been living in the building for the past three years. "It is filthy here, rubbish everywhere and the building is literally falling apart. I live alone and I like it that way, I wouldn't want anyone living with me in this place. I am happy that finally the government is doing something about this because living here is the same as living in a shack. I heard about the new homes from someone, but I thought it was just a rumour. I don't mind moving to the new temporary houses, as long as they will fix the flats and we will come back to them because this is where my life is now."

In 2011 the city planned to move the residents to Blikkiesdorp, a temporary relocation area in Delft with structures made of silver zinc. The City's Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements, Tandeka Gqada, said the City identified the Masonwabe flats as a building that was dilapidated and unsafe. "The City tried to negotiate with the occupiers to vacate the building and relocate but when this was unsuccessful they brought the matter before the High Court. The parties then engaged with one another further and the City offered to accommodate the 80 households listed in a survey of the occupiers, in 80 temporary structures. This was made an order of court."

Gqada said the new structures were being erected in a temporary relocation area (TRA) in Gugulethu where they would also receive basic services. The occupiers who were to be relocated would be told soon of the date of relocation and asked to apply for electrical connections. The TRA was developed from the City budget for emergency housing.

With barely any fencing, the rundown building is riddled with graffiti. Most of the rooms do not have windows, and tenants have used cardboard to replace them.

It is not clear if Sipho and the other tenants will get their wish to return to the block once it is renovated. According to Gqada, the Masonwabe flats will be demolished. The flats are still registered in the name of a trust, but the City is currently negotiating to buy the property. The City hopes to develop the property for housing. However, because the City is not yet the registered owner of the property, it cannot estimate the timeframe for any potential development. Gqada added that funds allocated to the City for housing would fund the project.

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