The day my dad dies, I want him carried out of a brick home with dignity
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CAPE TOWN - “Before I die, all I want is a house.”
These were the words of 68-year-old Gladys Bruiners and her partner David Bruiners, 67, whose tragedy did not end after they were forcefully removed from their home in Plettenberg Bay almost three decades ago. They are the only ones in their small New Horizon community in the Bitou Municipality who live in a tiny shack on a concrete foundation, while their neighbours have brick houses.
Recently the municipality came under the spotlight after manager Lonwabo Ngoqo and community service director Thozamile Sompani, alleged to be at the centre of a “corrupt scheme” involving a R38 million housing contract, have been placed on special leave as the municipality conducts an internal investigation into the matter.
The move came after it emerged that some Bitou officials had allegedly solicited bribes from contractors of the Qolweni Housing Project.
The contract, which relates to the building of 169 houses, recently landed in the Western Cape High Court, with contractors wanting to reinstate the project.
As part of its Big Friday Read ahead of the local government elections on November 1, the Cape Times spoke to the elderly couple about their plight.
“We were given three days’ notice to vacate the land where we used to live. We moved during the middle of the night. It was sad and we were out of work so we had to use old materials to build something. We gave our IDs to the ward councillor at the time who said he would assist us,” Bruiners said.
“When it rains, it is the worst; the place is wet everywhere. Our electricity box is also broken and the municipality says it is not their responsibility.”
Bruiners has had two strokes and is unable to move much.
The pensioners said they have had a difficult 29 years and are uncertain if they would vote in the coming local government elections as previous votes had yielded no change.
Their daughter, Dercia Bruiners, 29, said she was uncertain about who to vote for because many empty promises had been made in the past.
“I just wish for the municipality to come and build our house. I feel like the day my father dies I want him to be carried out of our brick home with dignity.”
The municipality said Bruiners applied for a subsidy and the contractor built a shack from the money.
“Feedback from Mr Anthony Fourie from the Bitou Integrated Human Settlement Department indicates that Mr (Bruiners) did apply for a housing subsidy but did not qualify based on the criteria, and in 2003 received an amount of R14 375. Half of this amount (R7 187.50) was earmarked for services. A contractor built a shack unit from this amount that year. Further intervention by the Bitou Municipality in 2015 saw a wendy house being provided due to the unit that the family was staying in being in a very bad state,” Bitou municipality spokesperson Andile Amos Namntu said.
He added that subsidy approvals were not done at a municipal level and they only facilitated the process.
Thirty-six-year-old Remano Kamfer whose family was also forcefully removed in 1991 from The Tides, Gaansvlei, said he was struggling to survive.
“We vote but nothing happens. Life is tough here. There is no work, no entertainment and not everyone gets opportunities. When the municipality has work we never get the jobs.”
He said debt on his municipal account has resulted in him receiving only 3.6 units for R10 while he was unemployed.
“My grandparents both died and the house is still in their name. I have gone to the municipality and provided the death certificates as requested but still there is no change. I don’t even receive reference numbers from them and am just told to come back.”
Namntu said deductions on electricity was a debt collection mechanism.
“Auxiliary on prepaid electricity purchases is a debt collection mechanism in compliance with municipal policy and this is implemented in many municipalities across the country. The Bitou Municipality applies a 50/50 auxiliary on electrical purchases. This means that 50% of the amount used to purchase electricity goes towards the arrears debt of the consumer. “
Namntu added that local employment with regards to approved tenders was enforced.
“The bid committees of the Bitou Municipality enforce 100% local employment in all unskilled labour in all tenders.”
Claude Terblanche, of the Plett Democratic Congress, formed last year, said the party was founded by the community “so that the people of Plettenberg bay could have a voice within Bitou Municipality”.
“(We are a voice) for the people whose electricity accounts have been the one month X amount and the next Z amount. A voice for those who were overlooked for jobs. A voice for those whose names are on a waiting list for over 20 years. A voice against the everyday tender fraud, against incompetent systems and to end maladministration, wasteful and fruitless expenditure. Because local government is the sphere of government closest to the people,” Terblanche said.