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‘Sober dialogue’ needed now to resolve housing impasse in the Western Cape

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One of many vandalised houses across the province. PHOTO: supplied
One of many vandalised houses across the province. PHOTO: supplied

As the Western Cape government continues to count the costs of illegal invasions, the Khayelitsha Development Forum (KDF) is appealing for a “sober dialogue” to resolve the housing impasse in the province.

According to the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements, over 700 housing opportunities have been lost due to vandalism and land invasions in the past three years in over 1 600 invasions of land earmarked for human settlement development across the province.

During this same period, more than 100 Breaking New Ground (BNG) houses were vandalised and over R100 million had been spent to secure properties and to prevent invasions.

An additional R24 million has also been spent repairing vandalised houses.

“It is deeply concerning that the money spent on securing land and repairing vandalised houses could have been used to build over 700 BNG housing units for Western Cape citizens,” read a statement released by the department.

According to the department, the sites include Silvertown Project in Khayelitsha where more than 500 units and serviced sites could not be built.

However, KDF chair Ndithini Tyhido said while they do not encourage illegalinvasion, they are appealing for constructive dialogue among different structures including the provincial government.

“There must be a willingness to engage from all the leaders, including leaders of the affected areas,” said Tyhido.

He lashed out at provincial authorities for always rushing to courts to resolve illegal invasions in the province.

“Cape Town always takes the hardline approach and this approach is not working,” he said.

He described housing as a massive challenge in the Western Cape.

According to him, some invaders have genuine concerns while the criminals have also infiltrated the land invasion process. “There is more to what meets the eye. There are criminal elements that have taken advantage of the whole situation.

Tyhido criticised the provincial government for the “lack of appetite” in building houses, saying individuals who are on the government’s housing waiting list should be “formalised” when invading the land and the majority is willing to be moved to alternative sites, but the government has no tangible plans to accommodate them.

He added that the Silvertown project was among many “permanent” Temporary Relocation Areas (TRAs).

Tyhido appealed to government to urgently look at building permanent homes for people who leave in TRAs and start a process to address illegal invasions.

“We don’t want Khayelitsha to be full-on shack dwelling until eternity,” he said.

Provincial Minister of Infrastructure Tertuis Simmers said: “The impact of invasions and illegal occupation of BNGs, results in the damaging of units that cost the department additional funds to fix and secure.

“It can take up to three months and more to fix. It also delays delivery to the rightful owners. Illegal occupations ultimately not only hamper our ability to reach our targets, but more importantly, severely delay the delivery of housing opportunities to beneficiaries.

“It saddens me that much of the money spent to secure our sites and developments could have gone to providing more houses for deserving people.”

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