Backyarders in Cape Town call for transparency in housing allocation

In August 2018, backyarders in Cape Town were demanding an end to evictions and for decent housing that is close to schools, clinics and other amenities. Photo by Mfundo Mhlanganiso

Organisations representing backyarders in Cape Town say that government’s housing database has to be laid bare to ensure the most deserving people receive subsidised houses.

Organisations representing backyard dwellers in Cape Town have said that the government and the City of Cape Town’s housing database is not transparent and accountable. They still encourage their members to register so that they can benefit from subsidised housing, however, following a call by the City of Cape Town for backyarders to apply to register on the City’s housing database.

According to the Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements, Councillor Malusi Booi, only one in three backyarders are registered on the housing database. Booi said that the City’s database reflects that almost 70% of residents in informal housing in the metro are not formally registered for subsidised housing and, therefore, not eligible for a housing opportunity.

Backyarders’ organisations, however, do not believe that there are so few backyarders on the City’s housing database. The problem, they claim, is rather with the lack of delivery and fraud. Phindile Nazo, the chairperson of Gugulethu Backyarders, said that they have members who have been on the waiting list since the 90s and have not received houses.

“The claim by the City is not true; a number of backyarders are on the database and they have been on the database for quite some time now and are still without descent housing. Our fathers and mothers, a lot of them have been on the list for a long period of time and they still have their red cards, which they received in the early 90s. That shows that they have been on the database for long and yet they are still without housing,” Nazo said.

Also read:  ‘Made in Tunisia’: the worker-casualties of the globalisation of the textile industry

Khaya Xintolo, the organiser for Mandela Park Backyarders, echoed Nazo’s view and he said that they make sure that their members have applied to register for subsidised housing. Xintolo questioned what the City is doing about the fact that there are few backyarders on their database.

According to Booi, there are 328,000 qualifying residents on the housing database.

“The great need for affordable housing and services in and near urban centres especially means that we must ensure that we work in a planned, systematic and fair manner. It is really important for backyard dwellers to apply to register on the housing database. Backyarders who are not registered on the database cannot be considered for housing opportunities created for them by the City and Western Cape government. All qualifying beneficiaries and especially backyard dwellers must therefore please ensure that they are registered on the database and that their details are correct and up to date,” said Booi.

Backyarders raised the issue of fraud resulting from the housing database being not transparent and accountable to citizens. The housing database in South Africa is not a public document that residents have access to and this, according to Gugulethu Backyarders, creates opportunity for corruption and fraud.

“The database is not transparent and accountable, because if it was so, we would not be having young people owning houses in areas like Delft whereas our parents have old red cards and yet they are still without houses to date. Explanation of how that happened is never brought forward as it lacks transparency and accountability. These are not mere allegations but facts! My own mother still has her red card and my ex-girlfriend owns a house in Delft and she was born in 1992 – that alone tells you how dependable the database is,” said Nazo, the chairperson of the Gugulethu Backyarders.

Also read:  In Valencia, a local neighbourhood offers an example of how to resist speculative urban planning

Xintolo of Mandela Park said that they see non-citizens getting houses as evidence that the database is open to corruption.

The MEC for Human Settlements responded to these allegations by saying that the database cannot be manipulated or interfered with as it is audited and protected.

Elitsha has in the past covered community protests where residents believe and demand that any housing development should prioritise people from the local community over those who are seen as coming from outside. Booi said that the allocation of houses is done in accordance with “national legislation and the allocation policy”.

Copyright policy

Creative Commons LicenceThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Should you wish to republish this Elitsha article, please attribute the author and cite Elitsha as its source.

All of Elitsha's originally produced articles are licensed under a Creative Commons license. For more information about our Copyright Policy, please read this.

For regular and timely updates of new Elitsha articles, you can follow us on Twitter, @elitsha2014, and/or become a Elitsha fan on Facebook.