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Criminal activities, including extortion, blamed for stalled airport housing project

FILE PICTURE of Human Settlements MEC Tertuis Simmers visiting the Airport Precinct - Picture supplied

FILE PICTURE of Human Settlements MEC Tertuis Simmers visiting the Airport Precinct - Picture supplied

Published May 10, 2022

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Cape Town - The legislature has heard that criminal activities at the Airport precinct housing project construction site, including shootings and attempts to extort money from the contractor, have forced work to be halted.

Human Settlements MEC Tertuis Simmers told ANC MPL Andile Lili that the delays had been further compounded by the refusal of resident communities to be temporarily relocated from the construction area.

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This has jeopardised the project, which was meant to provide 175 housing units in the current financial year.

Lili had asked about progress on the project and when the first residents were to move in. He also wanted to know which pockets of land and/or housing projects had been earmarked to benefit residents of temporary relocation areas (TRA).

Simmers said: “There have been incidents of shooting on site where demands were made on the contractor by gunmen to pay R200 000 a month if they wish to continue working.”

He said all construction-related work had since been stopped as there had been continuous threats of further shooting.

“The construction work will only resume when all safety and security measures are in place and the contractor deems the working environment is safe to continue.”

There were ongoing discussions with the contractor and local stakeholders to find suitable mitigation measures to help create a safe working environment, he said.

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Reacting to this, MPL Matlhodi Maseko (DA) said there had been a long track record of criminals targeting Human Settlements projects with the express goal of extorting protection money from project managers.

She would be asking the Community Safety and Police Oversight MEC Reagen Allen to look into all housing projects in the province that are halted by similar criminal acts in the hope that he would take the matter up with the police, she said.

“People need homes, and we cannot allow crime to get in the way of this.”

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Meanwhile, with regards to the question about earmarked housing projects, Simmers said there were none set aside for people in the TRA during the 2022/23 financial year.

“However, some beneficiaries within the TRA, managed by the department, were relocated to Forest Village and Joe Slovo.”

An audit would be done in the 2022/23 financial year to verify approved beneficiaries who still need to be relocated to formal houses, he said.

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The department said the airport precinct project is divided into phase one which comprises construction of housing units on infill sites with a total yield of 729 houses; and phase two which entails the development of the main site comprising different pockets of informal settlements.

Simmers said the Airport Infills housing development project comprises four sites which are allocated in Lusaka, New Rest, Luyolo and Tambo Village.

He said the airport precinct beneficiaries would be sourced mainly from Kanana, Barcelona, Europe, Vukuzenzele, Zimbabwe, Lusaka and surrounding areas.

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