Provincial SA Human Rights commissioner Chris Nissen said: “What we want to do is bring the decision-makers together with the back-yard dwellers and create a proper dialogue." Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - The South African Human Rights Commission says it is finalising its plans to set up a back-yard summit.

The summit comes a few days after protests took place in more than eight areas in the city to demand the government accelerates the provision of housing opportunities.

Provincial SA Human Rights commissioner Chris Nissen said: “What we want to do is bring the decision-makers together with the back-yard dwellers and create a proper dialogue between them because we need answers as to whether there is a proper plan going forward.”

Nissen said a date had been set for the summit.

“We will inform our Johannesburg offices and then secure a venue. This summit I believe is long overdue because we can’t be reckless and ignore this, we really need a solution for this,” he said.

Last week, the group Gatvol Capetonian protested against, among other things, a lack of housing opportunities for coloured people, the perpetuation of apartheid-style spatial planning, a lack of housing opportunities close to work, and the waiting list.

Road surfaces in several areas were damaged during the protests because of the burning of tyres. Traffic lights and street lights were also damaged.

MEC for human settlements Tertius Simmers called the plans of the SA Human Rights Commission “noble”.

“I have massive respect for the Human Rights Commission and their assistance, but from a provincial side I’ve gone out and engaged with housing beneficiaries and back-yard dwellers. I’ve placed massive emphasis on backyarders to ensure they’re on the waiting list. If they aren’t on the waiting list, I urge them to make sure they are. It’s a sad reality that we’ve picked up that many of these backyarders are not on the waiting list. The first essence is personal responsibility, and for backyarders to ensure they’re on the waiting list,” he said.

It is not the first time the plight of backyard dwellers has surfaced. Last year, residents of Vrygrond protested against a lack of housing in the area and demanded the City release a piece of land known as the Xakabantu.

Residents in Woodlands, Mitchells Plain, said they had been on the waiting list for more than 20 years and illegally occupied a piece of land for days.

Spokesperson for Gatvol Capetonian, Fadiel Adams, said: “We welcome this (summit) because it will start putting the struggles of backyarders on the agenda. What we’ll be demanding is timelines and guidelines on when we will be getting houses - and proper, decent houses.”

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Cape Argus