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Family’s ‘rescue’ hits new snag


“Who is paying the salaries of these people on site. They have already dug sites for the houses. This is clearly undermining the jurisdiction of the council”

THE “RESCUE” plan to construct new houses for the 47 people living in an overcrowded house in Colville appears to have hit another obstacle.

Previously, members of the Greenpoint community living in the area where the family were supposed to be relocated, were up in arms because they felt that they had been overlooked. Threats were apparently made to burn down or destroy any house that was constructed in the area.

This time, it is the residents of Herlear and the Ward 28 councillor, Herbert Japhta, who are in an uproar over the construction of shanties behind the police flats.

While no one yesterday wanted to confirm who the shanties were being erected for, it is believed that they have been earmarked for the Colville family of 47.

Municipal employees were hard at work yesterday at the site, a piece of open ground situated behind the police flats.

By yesterday morning already, five plots had been cleared and two shanties erected on the land and workers were preparing plots to lay the foundations.

Japtha called for the construction to be stopped, stating that the correct procedures had not been followed.

“The construction of six houses for the overcrowded family was never discussed at council. No one at the Sol Plaatje Municipality, not even the executive mayor or the Speaker, seems to know who took the decision to construct the houses on this land. I have called the mayor and he indicated that he did not know who had allocated the land. I then called the Speaker and she also indicated that she knew nothing,” said Japtha.

“Nobody seems to know anything and they are keeping us in the dark about who made this decision. It is actions like these that lead to land grabs. There are council procedures that need to be followed before land can be allocated.”

Japtha pointed out that there had been various offers to council to purchase the land.

“This land had been vacant and there were thousands of applications to purchase the land. The applicants were not even informed that the land had been allocated for the construction of houses.”

He added that although the plan to assist the family was a noble one, the decision was infringing on the rights of other residents.

“I told Premier Zamani Saul that this matter is setting a precedent for other land grabs. We understand that these people need to be assisted but what about other people who are in the same situation. There are many people who are staying in more dire situations than the beneficiaries of these houses. If you do it for one person then you have to do it for everyone. Most residents in the city and in the Province are living in overcrowded conditions without proper housing. We have warned the premier about this.

“What is worrying is that the homeowners in this area are now worried about the value of their properties dropping because of the shanties. This is a valid concern for the residents in this area. There was no proper consultation with the residents or by council about the matter.”

Japtha added that the person who gave the green light for the construction on the land knew what he or she was doing.

“The property belongs to the municipality and it is municipal workers who are preparing the ground, as well as employees from waterworks who are connecting the water. Yet now nobody knows anything about who gave the go ahead for the houses to be erected there. The necessary manpower as well as resources for the construction are present, but not even the mayor can state who gave the order for the construction to take place on this land.”.

He said the construction should be stopped and an investigation launched to find out who had given the go-ahead.

“Who is paying the salaries of these people on site. They have already dug sites for the houses. This is clearly undermining the jurisdiction of the council,” said Japtha.

The plight of the family came to light earlier this year when President Cyril Ramphosa visited them at their home in Colville and was shocked by their living conditions.

AfriBiz Investments, in partnership with the Collen Mashawana Foundation, decided to come to the family’s rescue after reading about their plight in the media.

It was agreed that new homes would be built to accommodate five siblings, their 12 children, 18 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

The spokesperson for the Officer of the Mayor could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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