Despite assurances that Kuils River backyarders who have been on the City’s housing waiting list for many years will benefit from the Highbury Phase 3 project, residents say they have lost hope that they will ever be given homes.
Highbury Phase 3 is a Department of Human Settlements project with 264 RDP houses, 100 GAP houses and 100 houses for military veterans.
Last week, Northern News reported that angry Kuils River residents had threatened to protest after they heard they would not benefit from the new housing developments in Highbury (“Residents demand houses,” Northern News, January 23).
But a meeting of more than 200 Kuils River residents at Kalkfontein Primary School on Monday January 28, heard that backyard dwellers who had been on the waiting list since 1999 would be among those to benefit from Highbury Phase 3 upon reassessment of the City’s housing waiting list.
While this announcement gave some residents hope, others disrupted the meeting, saying their refused to believe “promises” made to them.
This week’s meeting comes in the wake of violent protests when, on Wednesday January 23, angry Kuils River residents took to the streets, burned tires and marched to the gates of the Highbury Phase 3 housing project.
At the site, residents demanded that security staff open the gates so that they could move into the houses.
Human Settlements official Mbongi Gabuza who addressed the crowd at Monday’s meeting, said he only had good news for the residents.
“MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela has reversed his decisions to move any residents into the houses, whether they are from Wesbank or Kuils River. We will work on a first come, first served basis.”
The crowd cheered loudly at his statement.
He said his colleagues handling the project, had requested a waiting list from the City of Cape Town and that this list would be used to determine who received a house.
But the crowd was sceptical.
“Lies,” shouted a resident. “This is a chommie, chommie thing.”
Mr Gabuza added that the department would scrutinise the City’s housing list along with a list of backyarders, compiled by community leaders, which needed to be submitted by Friday February 1.
Mr Gabuza said some residents on the waiting list had not been informed that they were beneficiaries, either because their contact details on the City’s housing waiting list had been changed or they had moved and authorities had been unable to contact them.
“The names of people on the City’s waiting list will be matched with the names and new numbers on the list compiled by community leaders and from there we will select who will be moving into their homes in three weeks time,” he said.
In response, the people in the crowd jumped up from their seats clapped loudly.
But the mood turned when resident, Gcobani Tsako asked for the commitment to be given to residents in writing.
“Why was Wesbank considered for the housing in the first place? I am so worried that there is no commitment from the Department of Human Settlements and I demand that the solution they have come up with and the plan to look through documents, we want this promise to be given to us on black and white.”
At this, the crowd became angry, hurling accusations at the officials.
“People from Wesbank were promised the houses and we protested. Now we are promised to also be beneficiaries and they will start protesting,” said Mr Tsako. “This is an evil plan.There is no promise that they will accommodate us.”
Miena Smith, 78, who is disabled, said she had been on the City’s housing waiting list since 1999 but had not been considered for the housing project.
“I live from my grant and I pay someone else to live at their house,” she said. “Why was I not one of those considered for a home? They have been promising me a house for a while now but I will not get my hopes up for another disappointment.”
Yolanda Tala, a member of the Kuils River Concerned Citizens (KRCC), said she was happy with the decision made by the Department of Human Settlements but would keep a close eye on the promises made.