News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Thursday May 24th 2018

Tension brews over illegal occupation of Joe Slovo flats

Occupants of Joe Slovo low-cost apartments, Innocent Scwebu and Patrick Kiwiet say they lived in the flats for over ten years and are now in fear of being evicted by residents. Photo: Peter Luhanga/WCN

Occupants of Joe Slovo low-cost apartments, Innocent Scwebu and Patrick Kiwiet say they lived in the flats for over ten years and are now in fear of being evicted by residents. Photo: Peter Luhanga/WCN

27/09/2012

Soon after the completion of low cost flats in Joe Slovo Park near Milnerton in 1999, they were illegally occupied by residents of the informal settlement there.

Although this has been the status quo for 13 years, other residents of the informal settlement are seeking to evict them and move in themselves.

This has created a rift in the township with community leaders split into two groups. One group backs the current illegal occupants while the other is seeking their eviction.

There are 12 families currently living in the flats situated at the corner of Hlungulu Crescent and Skhova Street.

The flats were built by Marconi Beam Development Trust 13-years ago, and soon after completion, people living in the informal settlement invaded them, said Trust chairperson Mzamo Mbange.

Mbange said the low costs flats were meant to be a “show village” and beneficiaries were to be the “broader community”.

“We (Marconi Beam Development Trust) just got tired (with) what was happening. People wanted to make chaos. There was quiet a lot of jealousy, people asking where one came from and so forth,” said Mbange.

But when one of the illegal occupants sold the flat they had been occupying in June this year, tensions rose.

Community leader Zanele Lusithi said initially the residents had agreed that if any of the occupants moved out they were to hand the keys to the community leaders so that another family could be allowed to move into the one-bedroom apartments.

But the profiteering by one of the illegal occupants has split community leaders.

“Community leaders are split up,” said Lusithi, “some want to evict the occupants and occupy the flats themselves. They say the occupants do not belong here.”

But she said they could not evict the current occupants without providing them alternative accommodation as demanded by other community leaders.

Current flat occupant Tsidi Yanga, 40, a mother of three adult children, said she had lived in the flat for four years and had paid rent for eighteen months R2000 a month to the first occupant who invaded the flat and claimed that she owned it.

Yanga said she only stopped paying rent in March last year after the City had intervened and told the occupants that no one was supposed to pay rent to any one.

She said in August some community leaders had stormed into her flat and gave her three months notice to vacate the flat and pay rent in the intervening period.

However, she refused.

“It’s frustrating. People come threatening to evict us as if we are illegal immigrants when we are all South Africans. We have reported these threats to the City,” said Yanga.

Speaking on behalf of the City, DA ward councilor Dr Joy McCarthy said the City’s legal department was investigating the matter to “sort out who the beneficiaries ought to be”.

“It’s not up to the community of Joe Slovo to decide who lives there and who doesn’t. The City’s legal department would determine who the beneficiary is,” said McCarthy.

The City’s legal department was investigating who the legal beneficiaries were and whose housing subsidy was used.

“That’s the route we have to go,” she said. — Peter Luhanga

Tags: Dr Joy McCarthy, Joe Slovo Park, Marconi Beam Development Trust, Mzamo Mbange, Tsidi Yanga, Zanele Lusithi

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