Promises, 'but no houses'

2018-11-27 06:00
Residents of 6th Avenue carry on with their daily lives while waiting for the formal housing they have been promised for many years.PHOTO: luvuyo mjekula

Residents of 6th Avenue carry on with their daily lives while waiting for the formal housing they have been promised for many years.PHOTO: luvuyo mjekula

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“Both the Department [of Local Government and Housing] and the City of Cape Town are committed to find a workable solution for the inhabitants of the 6th Avenue site.”

This was the assurance given to the leader of residents of the 6th Avenue informal settlement in Kensington in December 2008.

Ten years later, the residents are still waiting for houses to be built for them.

“It’s been more than 30 years, we are tired now,” says Rashieda Hans, a resident and member of the squatters’ committee.

For three decades, the residents have been waiting in anticipation and recently expressed their frustration at government officials and councillors and “their empty
promises”.

The residents’ leader, Jimmy Xalipi, says just last month, on Tuesday 2 October in a meeting with their ward councillor, Helen Jacobs, they were promised that the project would start at the end of 2018.

“Now we are told next year. What is the way forward?”

Xalipi has been in and out of government officials’ offices and meetings, including with Jacobs and Brett Herron, former Mayco member for transport and urban development, on behalf of the residents.

In documents in his possession, including letters from some of the officials, plans to develop the 6th Avenue informal settlement are clearly discussed.

In one letter dated December 2008, the head of the Local Government and Housing Department assures Xalipi of the commitment of the provincial government and the City to resolving the housing issue.

In another letter, the head of the Human Settlements Department in the Western Cape writes that the Department of Transport and Public Works has made available a portion of Erf 25166 in Maitland for human settlement development.

The piece of land was to be developed in conjunction with the City of Cape Town as a Community Residential Units (CRU) project, for the excess number of residents of the 6th Avenue development.

The documents in Xalipi’s possession also clearly state that at first 40 residents were to be accommodated in the project but after the number went up, changes had to be made.

This apparently delayed the project as the process required comment and authorisation from a number of provincial government departments.

Xalipi says there are currently 126 families living in the 6th Avenue informal settlement and they all must be accommodated.

The residents say Herron’s recent resignation has not derailed their efforts. They want his replacement, Felicity Purchase, to hit the ground running and assist them.

The wait has taken a toll on some of the residents.

One resident, Christina Owies, says she is fed up. “I want a house. I am ‘gatvol’ of living here.”

She says she gets distressed at the sight of rain as she knows water will pour through her leaking roof.

Another resident, Maria Waters, says she has been staying in the settlement for the past 28 years and is also sick and tired of her living conditions.

“I am tired of staying in a shack, I want a house.”

The residents have on many occasions contemplated taking to the streets and burning tyres. “But [Xalipi] stops us every time,” says Hans.

Xalipi does not live in the settlement but has the trust of the residents and is popular as a community leader in the Kensington area.

“I know if they burn tyres, they will be arrested and charged with public violence and we cannot afford that,” Xalipi explains. In response, Purchase, confirms that the City has been “engaging” with the
community.

“It is the City’s intention to develop both Erf 25166 in Maitland and the 6th Avenue informal settlement site for low-income housing.

“Feasibility studies are underway in order to apply for development approvals for these two sites,” she says in a statement. She, however, cannot provide exact timelines due to statutory processes, environmental impact assessments, development applications, as well as applications for funding.

Purchase says she intends making contact with the residents. 

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