Shack dwellers allocated then denied houses

Vathiswa Magadlela with her 85-year-old mother who suffered a stroke. All photos by Vincent Lali

Three families who were allocated houses in Forest Village in Eerste Rivier want answers from the MEC for human settlements after they discovered that ‘their’ houses are occupied.

Shack dwellers say the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements (DHS) tells them that they had been allocated houses in Forest Village even though they still stay in shacks in Kanana informal settlement in Gugulethu.

Three families who spoke to Elitsha say that they have been approved and allocated houses in Eerste Rivier but they cannot move in as the houses are occupied.

Vathiswa Magadlela lives in a shack with her two kids and 85-year-old mother, who suffered a stroke. Because she lost her job as a domestic worker during lockdown in 2020, she lives off her mother’s pension. Magadlela said her name appeared on the list of shack dwellers who were to be relocated to new RDP houses in Forest Village, Eerste Rivier in March 2020.

“I was one of the 75 residents who appeared on the list that the housing department hung at our community hall,” she said. The list of housing beneficiaries to be assisted would typically be displayed at the community hall a week before they would be relocated. The Covid-19 lockdown regulations delayed her relocation, but only until the regulations were relaxed.

Magadlela says that her application was approved and she was allocated a house but the provincial department of human settlements says that she did not meet the threshold and was replaced.

“Because I noticed that most residents who were also on the list had moved to Forest Village, I went to the housing department to make inquiries about my RDP house in April this year,” she said. “I was shocked when housing officials told me that I had already received my house and gave me a printout that said I received my house on March 25, 2020,” she said. She showed Elitsha the printout containing her address and the date on which she received the house.

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She went to Forest Village to check her house in June this year. “I was shocked to see the same house number written in my printout on the wall of an occupied house that was located in a partially fenced yard,” she said.

Nikiwe Jezile stays with her brother-in-law, her three kids and her five grandchildren in a shack.
She sells cow innards near police barracks in NY1 to support her mentally disabled brother-in-law and her kids, she said. Jezile said she added her name to the list of shack dwellers who were to be moved to Forest Village in March 2020. After she noticed that residents who applied in the same period as she did had moved to Forest Village, she went to the housing department to ask about her house. “The housing officials gave me a document containing my ERF number in Kanana and my other ERF number in Forest Village. The document says I received my house on March 24, 2020,” she said.

Jezile said: “The officials said I had already received my house and produced the document as evidence.”
“I have not yet received my house. I still walk through mud and water in my leaking shack,” she said.
Jezile said she went to Forest Village in June this year to look for her house and found it closed with burglar doors and noticed that its windows were covered with curtains. “It breaks my heart to think that someone else stays in my house while I stay in a cold, leaking shack,” she said. “Almost all the residents who applied along with me have left Kanana. I’m left behind. I want the housing department to evict the illegal occupant of my house and hand it to me.”

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Nikiwe Jezile says her shack is located on a wetland and the floor is always damp.

Fundiswa Mganu has been staying with her five kids in a shack and selling alcohol to support them since 2008, when she settled in Kanana. One of her kids is unable to speak. Mganu said: “I don’t want to die staying in that leaking shack. I want my house now.”

As in the cases of Jezile and Magadlela, housing officials gave Mganu a printout that states she also received a house in Forest Village. “I saw a mop hanging from a burglar door of a house that the officials said was allocated to me in Forest Village,” she said.

Nathan Adriaanse, spokesperson for the Western Cape DHS, said the department is currently only relocating elderly and disabled people. ”The list of potential qualifiers was placed in Kanana for public comment. There were a number of objections that were raised pertaining to the commitment that was made in a public meeting hosted by the national DHS that the priority will be given to the elderly and people with disability. Unfortunately, the people on the list of 75 beneficiaries did not meet the threshold of elderly people or people living with disability,” said Adriaanse. “All those that fell below the age of 60yrs old were replaced by people living with disability in consultation with PSC and the local ward councillor.”

“They will receive their housing opportunity at Airport Infills Project which will commence when 3,000 Kanana beneficiaries are relocated to clear the site,” said Adriaanse.

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