Fynbos residents blame municipality for racial tensions over housing dispute
Municipality to make fourth attempt to evict people illegally occupying RDP houses
Some residents of Fynbos in East London have accused the Buffalo City Metro Municipality (BCMM) of failing to secure new RDP houses. The houses were illegally occupied in October 2018 by a group of backyard dwellers from the areas.
The development is expected to include 1,137 houses and is to benefit residents from ward 10 Ndancama, Fynbos 2 and ward 8, Fynbos 1.
In June, BCMM went to court to have them evicted. In November, the East London Magistrates Court issued an order to evict the occupants of about 300 RDP houses.
But when the Sheriff arrived to carry out the order in Fynbos 2 last month, a fight broke out between the occupants and the group of residents who claim to be the rightful owners of RDP houses. This resulted in several of the houses being torched and vandalised.
Community leader Nomonde Gqisha said she was one of the people who had alerted the municipality when the group first started occupying the new houses. Nothing was done at that time when only a few houses were occupied, she said.
Gqisha is among hundreds of people who were moved from Fynbos informal settlement in 2015 to make way for the construction of the RDP houses. They have been living in temporary prefabricated units nearby ever since. This group believes they are the rightful owners of the houses.
Gqisha acknowledged that the municipality had made two previous attempts to evict the occupants but failed. “Occupants were told to take their belongings and leave the houses. Some people said they did not have transport to take their belongings so not all people were moved from the houses,” she said.
Gqisha said residents from both sides were frustrated with the BCMM. She added that the uncertainty about the houses has only fueled racial tensions in the predominantly coloured community.
Resident Nompucuko Kaleni, 77, said, “When we were moved in 2015 I was so happy. They said we will only be here for six months but look at us now. This is going to be my fourth Christmas in this temporary house.”
Kaleni said that the temporary shelters were not safe and that her unit had been broken into twice by criminals. She shares her two-room unit with her four grandchildren.
One of the occupiers, Zelda Hendrikz, said they were willing to peacefully leave the houses if the municipality gave them another place to stay. She had previously been a backyarder in the area.
Another occupier Dalene Warrie said that they had supported and joined residents of the informal settlement when they protested for houses. “We were also registered. But when people were approved, backyarders were not included,” she said. She said that she occupied a house so she could better care for her disabled son.
Head of Human Settlements Nozandile Mhlola said the municipality was planning a fourth round of evictions soon but could not confirm when it would happen. “The municipality is looking into this matter. No one will live in someone else’s house,” he said.
Questions sent to BCMM spokesmen Bathandwa Diamond, Luxole Komani and Samkelo Ngwenya on December 2 were not answered.
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