Public Protector asked to step in to probe allegations of housing list corruption after Parkwood protests

2018-05-24 17:29
Police keeping watch in Parkwood. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Police keeping watch in Parkwood. (Jenni Evans, News24)

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Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane was asked to probe claims of housing list corruption, said SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) commissioner Chris Nissen.

This, as several fiery street blockades popped up around the Western Cape.

"Yesterday (Wednesday), we referred it to the public protector," Nissen told a group of angry Parkwood residents at an emergency meeting after clashes with law enforcement authorities on Wednesday.

He said he accompanied a delegation that went to the public protector's office in Cape Town and community representatives laid it all out to officials there for investigation.

This comes after repeated complaints about housing list corruption and housing shortages from who say they are being forced into "backyarding".

READ: 'Where will we go?' - Parkwood backyarders

The term "backyarders" is a reference to informal structures built in backyards and on stoeps (patios) to cope with growing demand for accommodation, amid housing shortages, unemployment and low salaries.

Parkwood, a suburb next to the M5 in Cape Town, is the latest to have burning barricades on main roads to draw attention to this plight.

One woman, Sandra Phillips, said she waited almost 20 years for her house, relocating all the time as she waited patiently.

When she eventually received her government house, somebody else arrived and tried to lay claim to it.

'The waiting list is corrupt'

Phillips said she made sure she got the house but added: "The waiting list is corrupt."

Janine and Donovan Fredericks told News24 that the protests in Parkwood started on Saturday when they received official notice, along with "nice plans", that a plot of vacant land next to the M5 and opposite Alida Court was going to become a waste recycling centre - effectively a dump site.

Residents saw red because they wanted available money to be spent on houses - not a dump.

They decided to set up a symbolic occupation to get the attention of people driving past so that they could be heard.

ALSO READ: Violent protests over housing erupt in Parkwood in Cape Town

"It was definitely not a land invasion," said Janine, explaining that it was just a show of unhappiness.

Donovan added: "This (lack of housing) is a generational curse. The council [doesn't] take into consideration that families grow and then everyone is living on top of each other."

He cannot work because of a medical condition, so his wife is the bread winner at a call centre for them and their children.

"We are not stupid. We know that piece of land is a wetland and is not suitable to live on," he said of the chosen site for the protest.

The couple said there were numerous other vacant stands in Parkwood that were suitable for building.

A fire near Alida Court while police keep their distance. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Their flat only has one bedroom and they have two children.

The protest was apparently peaceful and had a picnic-like atmosphere.

"It was beautiful to see the whole community come together," said Janine.

However, law enforcement officials swooped in to move them off.

"They are bullies in blue," said Janine, who described the force used on Wednesday as excessive and unnecessary.

'Not everybody is a druggie or gangster'

She said there were some criminal elements who tried to take things from a local centre, but their mothers made them hand back the items to their rightful owners.

"A mother has pride for her family and won't put up with that. Not everybody is a druggie or a gangster here."

Donovan said that they did not sleep on Wednesday night because of all the confrontations.

Twenty-two people have been arrested on public violence charges so far, said Abe Braaf of the Parkwood Advice Office.

Two were released on warnings while money is being raised for their bail.

Janine said that at one point, residents of Southfield across the M5 were worried that protesters were going to take their houses, after they heard rumours.

However, this was not true.

"We are not interested in your house," said Janine. "We are not animals. We want the City to give us homes."

Another person on Facebook wanted to know why residents did not buy their own houses.

"How?" she asked.

"Our children get a matric and they go and work at Shoprite. The rest are still looking."

She said she told that person off because there are mothers feeding a whole family on small salaries.

WATCH: Police fire rubber bullets at angry Parkwood land protesters

City of Cape Town ANC caucus leader, Xolani Sotashe, said Cape Town was in a predicament because it was not spending money allocated for housing and services.

In the meantime, children were out of school and people stood around as tensions over Wednesday's events simmered.

Just before 13:00 children wheeled tyres towards the M5 and some stones were thrown.

Police wheeled the tyres away again and directed traffic past.

The remains of a burnt tyre on a road in Parkwood. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Pastor Barry Isaacs of the Concerned Clergy said he gave "total support" to the community and the SAHRC to bring closure so that people could have a decent home.

But he implored protesters to avoid violence.

Nissen also encouraged people to approach his office and with the police with complaints about how they were treated. These would be investigated.

Anybody who sustained injuries at the hands of the police must also report these to the nearby Grassy Park police station.

"We will talk to the relevant authorities," said Nissen.

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Read more on:    public protector  |  busisiwe mkhwebane  |  cape town  |  housing  |  land  |  service delivery  |  protests

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