Allocation of low-cost housing disgraceful

2013-06-05 00:00

IMAGINE you are a grandmother supporting numerous grandchildren, and living so far from your employment as a domestic worker that you spend half of your income on taxi fares. Lady Luck finally smiles on you and you are allocated a house in a scheme, which is much closer to work, so your taxi fares will be lower and you will now have more money to feed the many hungry mouths that are relying on you.

You would be inclined to go down on your knees and thank God that you live in a country that really cares about the poor. However, there is a little problem that you never imagined. Someone else has been given the keys to your house, has moved in and set up home.

Years go by, with the municipality promising to sort out your “problem”. You adopt an accommodating stance and tell the municipality that if it can’t arrange for you to be given your allocated house, another one in the same area will be just fine. Still nothing happens and your employer gets involved. She is a very feisty woman who threatens the housing manager with legal action, and the next day, your title deeds are miraculously produced, which show that you are, indeed, the legal owner of the house you were allocated. Once you have your title deeds showing that, at least according to the Deeds Registry, you are the legal owner, all problems have been solved. Not really, because you still can’t move into your house and you have in the interim received a lawyer’s letter threatening legal action by the occupier if you try to take possession of your house.

One particular paragraph from the lawyer’s letter setting out why his client/employee is the lawful owner, makes very interesting reading. “The property was granted to her in terms of a lawfully binding agreement and the allegations that the records have been lost, does not have any bearing on the fact that the agreement is lawful and binding. I was personally involved in the transaction and can consequently give positive evidence to the above. The counsellor [sic] who transferred the property to Margaret had the ostensible authority to do so and the transferor is bound by his actions.”

There are a number of questions that need to be answered in order to get to the bottom of this sorry saga.

At this stage, the name of the male councillor involved remains a mystery. I was the ward councillor of the ward in question and, apart from being female, have never been involved in or had the authority to transfer property of any description.

How did the illegal occupant get to be able to move into the house? She didn’t arrive in the dead of night and break down the door. She must have been given the key by someone in the municipality who is in charge of handing out keys.

It would appear that in this case, the skullduggery involved at least one municipal official, and someone who may at best have been a councillor, or at worst, purporting to be one.

Low-cost housing is built for the specific purpose of accommodating the poor, who are defined as households with a total monthly income of less than R3 500. Are those who are working the system just so desperate that they will do whatever it takes to get a roof over their head? Are those who are benefiting from the low-cost housing system, really only the poorest of the poor?

A few years ago, both the uMngeni speaker and deputy mayor were convicted of fraud. They had been given houses that they were not entitled to. A high-profile ANC member and Howick businessperson has, among his portfolio of properties, a low-cost house in KwaMevana. When one of the uMngeni middle managers was employed by the state, he managed to secure a low-cost house, despite the fact that he already owned a house in Merrivale.

The abuse of low-cost housing is not peculiar to uMngeni. The examples given are just that, examples of how the poorest of the poor are being denied the basic right of access to adequate housing by people who are hell-bent on self-enrichment.

• Pam Passmoor is the DA caucus leader in the uMngeni Municipality.

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