Home News Uncertainty over homes for ‘49’

Uncertainty over homes for ‘49’

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Uncertainty exists whether the donors, who wanted to assist the “family of 49” who are sharing an overcrowded house in Colville, are still willing to go ahead with the construction of six new homes.

The overcrowded house in Colville.

UNCERTAINTY exists whether the donors, who wanted to assist the “family of 49” who are sharing an overcrowded house in Colville, are still willing to go ahead with the construction of six new homes.

A family friend indicated that the “family” had since grown to 49 members following the birth of two more babies.

Several attempts to obtain clarity from their benefactors – AfriBiz Investments and the Collen Mashawana Foundation – were unsuccessful after a court order was obtained last week to allow construction to continue.

It is believed that the appointed contractor that started on site, is owed a substantial amount of money.

Their plight came to the attention of AfriBiz Investments, in partnership with the Collen Mashawana Foundation, after President Cyril Ramaphosa visited the Seekoei, Jacobs and Kok families and was shocked to witness their living conditions.

Lydia Kok invited Ramaphosa to see how her family, including elderly, children and disabled family members, were crammed into a three-roomed dwelling during the ANC 108th anniversary celebrations last year.

Promises were made that each family would receive a house and furniture by Easter 2020, while the existing house would be renovated for the seventh family.

At the time the new homes were intended to accommodate five siblings, their 12 children, 18 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.

The project hit a snag in February 2020 after community members in Greenpoint threatened to destroy the house because they felt overlooked and also wanted to receive houses.

A new plot was identified in Herlear behind the police flats where a dispute arose after residents questioned how the land was obtained.

In March last year the DA applied for an interdict against Sol Plaatje Municipality and AfriBiz Investments to halt the project.

Manager in the mayor’s office, Gurshion Arends, indicated that the mayor was still studying the judgment.

Handing down judgment in the Northern Cape High Court last week, Judge Mpho Mamosebo and acting Judge Mofokeng ruled that construction should continue.

In her judgment Mamosebo noted that following the visit to the family the acting municipal manager at the time, Boy Dhluwayo, in court papers had indicated that the president had requested the executive mayor “to do something about the situation”.

She added that the executive mayor met with the executive directors of Afribiz Investments and gave instructions to municipal officials to identify available land, conduct a feasibility study and prepare a report on its suitability for human settlement.

“The feasibility report was promptly filed on January 31 2020 where the possible suburbs were identified as Homelite, Beaconsfield, Moghul Park, Lerato Park and Colville. On an elimination process based on the infrastructural challenges, the sites were narrowed down to Greenpoint and Beaconsfield as both were already zoned for residential use. According to the municipal manager, the site was already identified in the municipality’s Integrated Development Plan (IDP) as zoned to be developed for housing for the poor.”

Mamosebo stated that the mayor confirmed on February 19 last year that there was available land.

She indicated that the former DA provincial leader, Andrew Louw, maintained that the identified erven in Beaconsfield had already been allocated for a private housing project, where the construction company had already commenced with the development project of houses for the six families.

“Louw maintains that he was also approached by other disgruntled community members … and argued that it could not find any council resolution that dealt with the allocation or disposal of the said erven.

“He demanded written reasons from the municipality for their decision and approached the court for an urgent interdict when no reasons were forthcoming.”

Homeowners in the area were concerned that the value of their properties would drop and called for a thorough public participation process.

Mamosebo added that the family met the requirements to qualify for the provision of housing.

She believed that the suffering of the families should be prolonged.

She pointed out that the value of the land did not exceed R10 million and therefore there was no need for public participation while municipalities were entitled to avail municipal land to house poor beneficiaries.

“The in-fill site comprises of six stands and are not vast tracks of land that can accommodate a large population. This court is aware of the importance of not creating a wrong precedent and the need to ensure that the laws of this country are promoted and upheld. The continued failure of the local government to perform in its service delivery, had caused ordinary citizens such as Lydia Kok to pin their hopes on the President of the country.

“Nothing prevented the parties from resolving this matter amicably in the interests of the indigent families.”

Mamosebo indicated that the municipality should have played a more responsible and transparent role in order to avoid unnecessary litigation.

“Why did it have to take the president of the country and the ANC to kick the municipality into action when the plight of Lydia Kok’s extended family must have been known to them? There is no doubt in my mind that they are guilty of dereliction of duties.”

She hoped that Afribiz Investments and its social investment partner would still be willing to provide its resources to assist the impoverished families.

“By allowing the municipality to proceed with the construction, it will restore the families’ right to dignity, to decent shelter and for their improved wellbeing.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the living conditions of Lydia Kok and members of her extended family were lamentable and the measures intended to be put in place by the municipality to restore their dignity would have passed the muster of the test of reasonableness.”