Government tenants march to human settlements MEC

Tenants from a number of areas fear removals

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Photo of protesters
Tenants from Naruna Estate, Sanddrift, Rugby and De Waal Drive marched to the provincial legislature on Tuesday to hand over a memorandum. Photo by Masixole Feni

A group of about 20 tenants from Naruna Estate, Rugby, Sanddrift and De Waal Drive marched to the provincial legislature on Tuesday to hand over a memorandum to MEC for Human Settlements Bonginkosi Madikizela.

They are demanding proper public participation regarding new lease agreements.

The tenants were told they would be given amended lease agreements to sign by 1 June or else they would face eviction. Tenants say they were not given reasons why there were new lease agreements.

Leading the march was Karen Saligee, chairperson of the Naruna Estate Residents Association, who said department officials had come to Naruna Estate around October and November informing tenants about the proposed lease agreements. Officials have also been going to Sanddrift and Rugby telling tenants about new lease agreements.

“From what we understand the new lease agreement states that people will be allowed to live in their properties for three years. It does not stipulate what will happen after those three years. Will people be kicked out on the street?”

Tenants marched from Keizersgracht, waving posters in the air with: ‘We want our homes’, ‘Affordable housing for all’, ‘Stop pushing us to the edge’. At the provincial legislature they handed over a memorandum to Lionel Esterhuizen from land and asset management within the department of human settlements.

Esterhuizen said he would forward the memorandum to Madikizela.

Carrying a poster with the words, ‘Liars, We won’t go’, Arthur Begg, who lives with his mother in Rugby, and has been living there for 38 years, said, “We have done renovations to our properties spending lots of money and now all of a sudden we are being told that we have to sign a new lease … They want us now to either move to Pelican Park or start paying R5,000 rent, which half of the people in our area cannot afford.”

“What we understand from this new lease agreement is that we can stay in our homes for three years, but the lease also states that the housing department should give us three months notice to move out … We want that out of the lease, because [otherwise] we will be signing something that says the department can kick us out after three months.

“It also says, should we want to renew our lease, then we must go according to the new property prices in the area. These houses were built for low-cost income. We are low cost income people. We have never been in arrears for anything. Our water, our rent and our electricity is up to date and paid on time. For us to be put in a predicament like this and to be kicked out of the area completely! I mean we are a community; it’s been 38 years; we know our neighbours; everyone knows each other. Now we are getting evicted,” said Begg.

GroundUp has previously reported how the Naruna Estate tenants have been struggling to access documents detailing their properties’ rental policy and how they have been waiting to have a public participation process with Madikizela.

In their memorandum, the tenants are demanding a retraction of the current proposed lease amendments; commitment to a public participation process with Madikizela; access to the new rental housing strategy documents before the public participation process; and new lease agreements negotiated by both the department and tenants.

Provincial spokesperson for human settlements, Zalisile Mbali, said that the department was made aware about the march and Madikizela had received the memorandum. “The Minister is still committed to engage the tenants. However, these engagements must be done in good faith.”

Mbali said the amended lease agreement is a standardised contract applicable to all departmental rental stock, is for a three year period, and is renewable. Evictions were only executed if someone was is in breach of contract.

“We were taken by surprise by yesterday’s march to the department as we believe we have an open line of communication with the tenants,” said Mbali.

Tenants have given the department 14 days to respond.

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TOPICS:  Housing

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