13 July 2017

South Africa: Joe Slovo Women's Forum Want Houses Not Flats

Community members call for new steering committee for N2 Gateway housing project

The Joe Slovo Women's Forum in Langa is unhappy with the N2 Gateway housing project. The forum wants houses and not flats, claiming there is a lack of communication from the provincial Department of Human Settlements. The forum is also calling for a new steering committee for the housing project.

Forum member Mimimi Xontelo said the initial agreement with the department a few years ago was for houses, but instead flats are being built.

Mimimi showed GroundUp a single-storey house joined to flats on each side of it. "This is what we are talking about. Why can't they build stand-alone houses? Why must the houses be between flats?" asks Nothobile Fayo, a resident and member of the forum.

But Ntomboxolo Makoba-Somdaka, spokesperson for Western Cape Human Settlements Minister Bonginkosi Madikizela, said the reason for flats is to accommodate as many Joe Slovo beneficiaries as possible.

However Xontelo says: "When we questioned why they were building flats, we were told because there was not enough land to build houses. We find that very strange because as you can see, Joe Slovo is huge." She explains that the department says not all the land will be used for housing, but "when we enquire about what else will be done, we get no answers."

The N2 Gateway Housing project is a joint initiative between the National Department of Human Settlements, the Provincial Department of Human Settlements and the City of Cape Town for the people of Joe Slovo informal settlement and those previously moved from Joe Slovo to temporary relocation areas.

Complaints about communication

Fayo has been living in Joe Slovo informal settlement for more than 20 years. She said her husband registered them for a house in 2010. "I am not even sure any more if I am on the beneficiary list, or if there is a beneficiary list for these houses. Some people are being moved to Delft instead of being given housing," she claims. "The steering committee for this housing project does not listen to us and decisions are taken without consultation."

Makoba-Somdaka said a new project steering committee was elected on 21 January 2017 at a public meeting held at the Langa Sports Complex. Another public meeting called on 10 June at the Langa Sports Complex with the new project steering committee did not go ahead as only about 30 residents attended.

Makoba-Somdaka said the Housing Development Agency (HDA) site office had also been open from 6 May to 7 July to assist with applications, subsidies, and any outstanding matters. She said the beneficiary list could not be released publicly because it contains confidential information. However, people could visit the HDA office to find out the status of their application.

A member of the project steering committee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "We know that the residents are complaining that they are not being told when decisions or plans are made about the housing project. We were elected by them at a meeting that was held in the hall and it is only right that they are communicated with. But I don't think things will change any time soon because even us, as the steering committee, we are fighting internally about certain issues and how things should be handled."

The Joe Slovo Women's Forum has now asked the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) to help. The SJC has encouraged residents to collect signatures for a petition.

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