Accusations fly in housing dispute

2018-04-11 06:01
Michael Ramohlabi (44) pointing out the spot where his shack stood.Photo: Boipelo Mere

Michael Ramohlabi (44) pointing out the spot where his shack stood.Photo: Boipelo Mere

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Michael Ramohlabi (44) from Donkerhoek claims to have been insulted by the disregard shown by a ward councillor of the Sol Plaatje Municipality after he had approached the media about his struggle with securing a plot for the past 12 years.

Many residents of Donkerhoek and some officials of the municipality believe Ward 8 Councillor Charles Ngoma has a hidden agenda and is using his position of power to settle scores.

Ramohlabi accuses Ngoma of pulling out all the stops to prevent him from getting an RDP house or a permanent plot.

As far as some officials (who prefer to remain anonymous) are concerned, this unemployed father of a ten-year-old girl should have been on a plot long ago. He is among the 67 residents who originally settled in Donkerhoek, situated next to the Ottors­koppie Stet Mining Dump, in 1998. Since then, his shack has burnt down.

Ramohlabi now claims that part of the yard, which is described by many as Ngoma’s empire, belongs to him.

He accuses Ngoma of not wanting to grant him the right to land, as he wanted his woman years back before he became councillor.

The issue keeps going back and forth between the two men, with the councillor challenging the complainant to give proof that he is indeed a Donkerhoek land owner and was once allocated a registered plot by the municipality.

“When we started living in Donkerhoek, Ngoma was not even a resident of Ward 8. He moved here much later. He rented room in someone else’s shack while he was a taxi driver and selling chips,” claims Ramohlabi.

He says Ngoma only started to be recognised when he became a ward committee member a few years later.

Things started falling apart as soon as Ramohlabi’s shack was destroyed by fire, leaving him to rent space in a backyard.

By then he was unemployed and depended on odd jobs, thus he could not afford material to rebuild his home.

He says he never received any form of assistance from Chris Dutchman, who was ward councillor at the time, and that Ngoma was still a ward committee member.

The residents of Ottorskoppie were later moved to Soul City, and some to formal residential plots, as the area they lived in was regarded as being illegally occupied and they were only given temporary plot numbers.

“I have always stayed in the same backyard in Donkerhoek throughout these challenges. I even voted in Ward 8 all the time.

“Thus I continued to keep in contact with Ngoma when he became councillor, fearing that I might be left off the beneficiary list. He continued to tell me to wait, promising that I would be allocated a house.”

Ramohlabi says he became increasingly concerned when all his neighbours from Ottors­koppie coincidentally ended up staying in one street, with Ngoma being the only newcomer – with a much bigger plot.

Ramohlabi was later allocated a stand in Sewende Laan by Papi Riddles, the now retired housing support manager. The councillor had arranged for Ramohlabi’s shack to be demolished, and him to be moved to Roodepan.

Ramohlabi says he turned down the Roodepan place, citing that it was too far from his child’s school in Galeshewe.

“I was unemployed and could not afford to pay transport for my child to go to school. That school is the only one that teaches Sotho, which is her home language,” he explained.

The suggested move left members of the community wondering who had the authority to allocate plots: the municipality or the councillor.

Ngoma, who is serving a third term as ward councillor, dismisses the allegations, but admits knowledge of Ramohlabi’s case.

“Wow, is this man still making allegations? I thought he had given up on tarnishing my image,” says Ngoma, reacting with surprise at Ramohlabi’s name being mentioned.

He confirms that he is aware that there was a dispute between the complainant and the municipality and reveals that the matter was dismissed due to a lack of evidence from the complainant. He accuses Ramohlabi of being silent all the time and relocating while the Donkerhoek housing development was underway.

“There is nothing that we can do, because he has never been on the housing allocation list. He continues to waste time making accusations and pointing fingers, instead of following proper procedure.

“He even went as far as building his shack on another plot, which he knew was not his – which is why the municipality broke it down and relocated him to an alternative place in Roodepan.”

According to Ngoma, the stand that was allocated to Ramohlabi by the housing support manager had been reserved for someone else.

“There are many developments that have erupted within the ward where beneficiaries are recognised, but he never came forth.

“I have served three terms and he has never even been allocated a title deed due to his madness.

“It is not my duty to arrange a place for him to stay. I even advised him to go and register on the housing waiting list at the Sol Plaatje Municipality.”

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