Tensions rise as 600 RDP houses stand empty in Nigel
High time we got answers, say Alra Park residents
On Monday, Alra Park and Snake Park residents marched nine kilometres to the Nigel Magistrate’s Court to deliver a memorandum of grievances addressed to the Gauteng Premier, the MEC for Human Settlements, the Minister of Human Settlements, the Mayor of Ekurhuleni, the Councillor for Nigel and the local town planner in Springs.
The marchers said they wanted answers about an RDP project of 600 houses in Mackenzieville which has been put on hold. The project began in 2014. About 200 houses are complete; 400 are near completion.
Anger in the community led to a violent housing protest on 22 March and the torching of the local satellite police station.
On Friday, 39 people who had been arrested were released without paying bail. Four people remained in custody, among them undocumented immigrants, according to Nigel police spokesperson Nelisiwe Dwaba.
“All persons will reappear in court on 22 May,” she said.
A memorandum of demands from the marchers was received and signed by a representative from the Department of Justice. They demanded a round table discussion with the relevant authorities within 14 days.
Golden Miles Bhudhu from the Greater Nigel United Parliament and leader of the Socialist Revolutionary Workers’ Party, which led the march, said, “In May 2017 we presented the same document to the Public Protector with allegations of fraud, misappropriation of funds, squandering and stealing from the poor. But nothing came out of the Public Protector’s office.”
The protesters want to know when residents will move into the RDP houses and to see a list of the beneficiaries. They allege corruption in the allocation process.
According to some residents unnamed persons seized keys for the RDP houses from a subcontractor’s storeroom.
“All of a sudden people were being given keys. Someone had seized them from the subcontractor. Some people managed to open doors to RDP houses, but other people’s keys did not work,” said Zill Rittles, a resident of Arla Park and a member of the Greater Nigel United Parliament.
Nomasonto Mathebula from Snake Park informal settlement said, “Keys were released to us and we occupied the houses. When we tried to march to the municipal office last week, police stopped us. I had the keys in my hands the whole time!”
Among the marchers on Monday was Thebogo Sicbehola from Snake Park. He said he was excited when he, his wife and three children slept in one of the RDP houses last week. “It felt right and peaceful. For a moment, l felt what it was like to own a house.”
Residents who had managed to occupy the houses were removed by police sent by the municipality. Some people had spent a night inside the houses. A number of them were arrested. Rubber bullets and teargas were fired.
“We slept on sponges in our new home only to be driven out by police. The RDP house we occupied had the same number as my shack number in Snake Park. I am the rightful owner. They should just let us move in because we are tired of living in the shacks,” said Sicbehola.
Sarah Mokoena, also from Snake Park, said she and her family had also occupied an RDP house last week. “The houses are being vandalised and stripped by thieves. I thought it best to move into my house to save it from thieves.”
Ward Councillor Wollaston Labuschagne (DA) said the beneficiary list for the housing project had not been made available to him by the department. He said that a new company had been appointed to attend to “architectural issues”.
Thieves have stripped windows, doors and frames from some houses.
Labuschagne said he was unaware of corruption “as the relevant metro and provincial departments have not investigated such allegations”.
“As far as I know all residents of Nigel have been given the opportunity to register. However, it seems the subsidy application process excluded certain community members. The subsidy application process is the responsibility of the Gauteng Human Settlements Department,” said Labuschagne.
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