“I don’t know who approved this project because our houses were built in a floodplain,” says 63-year-old pensioner Zamile Mgabadeli. “The water flows straight into our houses when it is raining. Our houses are always under flood. This has been happening for many years. We don’t have anywhere to go.”
Residents of Joe Slovo in Port Elizabeth say they have waited a decade to be rehoused. They live in the floodplain of the Chatty River. The worst affected houses are the last three in Sabulelo Street.
“The relocation of residents should have happened long ago. I came into office in 2016 and the issue was long overdue,” said ward councillor Simphiwe Tyukana.
“The municipality should tell us the truth,” said Zamile Mgabadeli. “We lived in shacks until houses were built. We were told then by the local authorities that the place was reserved for an access bridge. They also told us that they would relocate us to another place.”
He pointed out a number of sewer manholes dotting the floodplain. “Raw sewage floods straight into the house … We live with pigs and dogs that come to feed on worms and faeces in the mud. This brings flies and worms and there is always a pungent smell in the air.”
Khumbulani Mali lives next door to Mgabadeli. He said he is prepared to relocate anytime, anywhere within the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality. “They [the municipality] told us many years ago that they wanted to build a bridge. There are no signs of a bridge being built.”
When Mali first moved in ten years ago, he thought “it was a dream come true”. “I was thrilled to have a house of my own and to live with my wife and children as a family. It’s painful that the happiness has turned into a life of frustration.”
Bureaucracy blocks solution
Mayoral spokesperson Sibongile Dimbaza explained that the families had already received subsidised houses. (Usually you can only get a subsidy once for an RDP house.) He said the ward councillor needed to approach the Housing Development Agency and the provincial Department of Human Settlements to sort this out. Only then could relocations be done.
But Councillor Tyukana said, “The problem is between the municipality and some residents who had done extensive alterations to their houses. There is no agreement between the municipality and those people on the amount they should be paid to leave their houses.
“There is a deadlock. This is affecting residents whose houses are located in the Chatty River and did not do any alterations to their houses and are prepared to move.”
“Land for relocation is fast filling up in the municipality. The affected residents will end up with no place to be relocated to. I will do my best to convince the municipality and the beneficiaries to reach a compromise,” said Tyukana.
A resident who did not wish to be named, and who had extended his house and is not affected by floods, said, “I am not resisting being relocated, but who is going to pay for the alterations I did to my house? Why did the municipality build houses along a river in the first place? I know there are some houses in the floodplain that are affected by water, but the municipality should relocate them first. My house is not in danger of water, but can only be affected when the proposed bridge is built.”
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