PICS | Pietermaritzburg shack dwellers threaten to invade neighbouring housing project after devastating flood rains

Jika Joe resident Ayanda Maphumolo inside her shack on the plot she was given by the municipality to build on recently.
Jika Joe resident Ayanda Maphumolo inside her shack on the plot she was given by the municipality to build on recently.
Moeketsi Mamane

There are mounting concerns that the Jika Joe flats development is at risk of being invaded as many shack dwellers will not qualify for the rental accommodation.

This came up at Thursday’s executive committee meeting where the general manager for sustainable development and city entities, Felix Nxumalo, presented a report on the project.

Meanwhile simultaneously a group of shack dwellers were protesting at Jika Joe on Thursday demanding to be moved into the flats because their homes were flooded.

ALSO READ | Builders of Jika Joe flats now armed with interdict to block illegal invasions

Nxumalo said the completion of phase one is imminent and that will see 400 flats being allocated to those qualifying. Potential tenants must earn between R800 and R3500 a month.

“Right now they are striking and they are complaining that their houses were flooded so the disaster manager unit must come and remove the water. But those people are already living on a floodplain where even if you can do anything tomorrow they will still get flooded if it rains.”
Mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla

Were it not for lockdown 400 units would have been completed by the end of December, he said.

The report also recommended that the development, currently known as the Jika Joe community residential unit (CRU), be renamed Tatham Hill. This is because the sportsground it is built on was donated by the Tatham Family Trust, while the informal settlement is named after the taxi boss, Isaac Bantu Dlamini, who is popularly known as Jika Joe.

The development comprises of 1164 one and two-bedroom units.

The project was identified as one of the priority developments to address the housing needs for the estimated 3000 shacks dwellers at the adjacent informal settlement.

jika joe
Jika Joe residents took to the streets on Wednesday and Thursday demanding to be relocated from the floodplain.
jika joe
Jika Joe residents took to the streets on Wednesday and Thursday demanding to be relocated from the floodplain.
jika joe
Jika Joe resident Sandile Nxele inside his incomplete shack on the plot he was given by the municipality to build on recently.
jika joe
Jika Joe residents took to the streets on Wednesday and Thursday demanding to be relocated from the floodplain.

The area is regularly engulfed in fires and floods leaving many homeless and scrambling to rebuild their shacks. The dwellers complain about lack of basic service delivery with waste not being collected for months and lack of electricity which resulted in a spike in illegal connections.

ALSO READ | Jika Joe fire victims still waiting for promised government assistance

Nxumalo said around 1023 households within Jika Joe will qualify for the new flats.

He said those who do not qualify include people who were given RDP houses in France but moved back to Jika Joe and another group whose houses are part of the Signal Hill and Thembeni projects, which are still  in the planning stages.

Speaker Eunice Majola-Zondi is amongst those who raised concern over the invasion threat at yesterday’s meeting.

Apparently KZN Department of Human Settlement MEC, Peggy Nkonyeni, has also previously written to Msunduzi asking what its response will be should the flats face invasion.

“It will be recommended that if the threat of the units being invaded, the municipality must act swiftly with private security to ensure that the completed are earmarked for the intended beneficiaries,” said rental housing manager Radha Gounden.

Majola-Zondi said as far back as 2016 the flats and the related RDP housing projects were moving simultaneously because the aim was to ensure the clearing of slums.

Councillor Linda Madlala of the ANC said many Jika Joe residents believe the flats are theirs, so they need to be engaged properly instead of using a “confrontational” approach.

DA councillor, Glenn McArthur said even if the other RDP houses were to be completed soon it was going to be a challenge to move people to Signal Hill and Thembeni where they would have to take taxis to work.

Mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla before the start of every project said communities must be engaged on the intention and what they stand to benefit so the municipality does not end up facing undue retaliation.

He said the City cannot be held to ransom by people who sometimes deliberately burn down their shacks to try and force their way into the flats.

“Right now they are striking and they are complaining that their houses were flooded so the disaster manager unit must come and remove the water. But those people are already living on a floodplain where even if you can do anything tomorrow they will still get flooded if it rains.”

PROTESTS

The threats of invasion by dwellers started emerging when more than 300 shacks were gutted by the fire in September. Some of the Jika Joe residents did not want to go to temporary shelters so they protested and tried to force their way into the construction site. The issue reared its head again yesterday when the shack dwellers protested in demand for the City to relocate them from the floodplain.

ALSO READ | Jika Joe shack fire victims face multiple problems over loss of identity documents

This comes after their homes were flooded twice during Wednesday’s heavy rains. Some whose belongings were drenched said they only recently rebuilt their shacks. This after spending about two months at the shelter waiting for government aid in a form of building materials as they were also victims of the recent fire.

The demonstration started on Wednesday evening and on Thursday turned violent when some protestors began stoning cars. One person was arrested.

The demonstrators said the plots given to them to build on after the fire were not suitable for building.

“When it rains the water doesn’t go down to the river. It stands in the same place and creates dams so it ends up flooding our houses.” “All our belongings – beds, blankets and clothes -are wet from the rain on Wednesday morning and we had the storm in the afternoon then it rained the whole night. We haven’t slept a wink,” said Bongiwe Ncaba.

They were also angry that the City did not immediately send a TLB to dig a trench to help move the water into the neighbouring stream. Most of them assume that the flats are complete and ready for occupation and feel they should be allowed to move in since “we have nowhere to go.”  

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Daily Poll
Do you think the country needs stricter COVID-19 REGULATIONS as we head to the festive season?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes
67% - 22 votes
No
12% - 4 votes
Makes no different, the virus will spread either way
21% - 7 votes
Vote
Latest Issue

View the Witness in PDF

Latest Issue
Read the latest news from KZN in digital form.
Read now