Scores of people came to collect their title deeds at the Wallacedene community hall last week, but many also simply came to tell of their continuing struggle to put a roof over their heads and call it home.
Suzette Little, the mayoral committee member for area north, was at the hall on Wednesday July 26 helping officials hand out the precious documents from 21 boxes, each holding more than 100 deeds.
The City is issuing more than 5000 title deeds to RDP homes to beneficiaries living in Wallacedene, Wesbank, Mfuleni and Kalkfontein. According to the City, some 4000 beneficiaries in those four areas have already received their title deeds and 8000 deeds are in the process of being transferred.
But by 6pm on the Wednesday, only 101 title deeds had been handed out at the hall in Wallacedene.
Ward 6 councillor, the ANC’s Simpiwe Nonkeyizana, was also in the hall on Wednesday watching the proceedings and he felt they had not been well organised.
“There is a lot of confusion,” he said.
He said he and other councillors had wanted the sub-council to drive the process but that hadn’t happened, and instead thousands of title deeds had been given to residents simultaneously at community halls in four previously disadvantaged areas, including Wallacedene and Kalkfontein.
“I got an invitation to come here but I’m not the custodian of this event,” he said.
“I’m the host. I’m helping where I can because people have a lot of problems.”
Some of these problems included squatters, delays in getting houses once subsidies were approved and inheritance-related queries. Many people also came to apply for houses.
One such applicant was Nomhlaba Banisi of Wallacedene. Ms Banisi lives in a shack with her husband and five children. She had come to find out why she’d had no feedback about her previous application for a house.
Liza Deysel, on the other hand, had a title deed for the land her shack was on but had a problem with squatters living on the land. Ms Deysel said the builders had come twice already but left because the squatters were in the way.
Ms Little said this problem was not unique.
“There are people living on properties that they don’t have subsidies for. There is a belief that, ‘if I stay here long enough, it becomes mine’. So they take ownership of properties that don’t belong to them.”
Ms Little said in some cases people who had title deeds, did not yet have houses because they had switched contractors.
“The person would book with one contractor and then while the subsidy was being processed, they would become impatient. Another contractor would come along and say, ‘I’ll build your house quickly’ and then they’d resubmit another application with a different contractor and you can’t get a second subsidy so that first needs to be resolved.”
There were also situations where spouses and partners were married in traditional or religious ceremonies and the title deed holder died. Or a deceased title deed holder’s children continued to live on in the property but none of the necessary details were properly recorded at the Master’s Office.
In these cases, ownership ended up in no man’s land, Ms Little said.
“They would need to submit the right documents to the Master’s Office first,” Ms Little said.
But not everyone at the handover had come with grievances.
A 78-year-old woman, walking with a crutch, had come to collect her title deed. The woman declined to give her name but said she had been staying in her house for more than two years.
Before that she had been staying in a “hokkie” on the spot for 27 years.
“Ek is so brêkkerag oor my huis,” she declared proudly.
The woman said while the little house was not perfect – some of the taps were loose – she was grateful and happy.
“Somtyds sê ek, ‘Sjoe, maar die huis is koud, my hokkie was nooit so koud nie.’ Dan dink ek, ‘Nee, ek moet bly wees, ek het ’* huis.’”
Ms Little said the handover was “long overdue” and was part of the City’s “redress”.
“People should get their title deeds but some people just find it difficult to get there,” she said. “So the mayor decided let’s just go to the community and give them their deeds.”
Deeds still uncollected after the mass handovers will be delivered door-to-door in coming weeks.
This was the first time the City had given out title deeds “on this scale”, Ms Little said.
She said it was important that people understood the document was more than just a piece of paper but proof that they owned their properties and that their properties had “become their financial assets”.
Brett Herron, the mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, said many people had not yet received their title deeds due to “incomplete processes in the past” that had stalled registrations of ownership.
“Examples of such factors include financial and funding issues, legal appointments, and formal township establishment processes related to sub-divisions and registrations of general plans and so on,” he said.
Mr Herron said the City had set up the occupancy regularisation programme to clear the transfer backlog.
The housing database, he said, was compiled according to national government subsidy criteria and, among other things, applicants had to be over 18 and not earn more than R3500 a month.
Applicants can register on the City’s housing database by visiting any housing office or using the online housing portal. Applicants can also check the status of their housing application by sending an SMS with their identity number followed by a space and their surname to 44108. They can also contact the call centre at 021 444 0333 with their queries.