ECDC CEO Ndzondelelo Dlulane, Mnquma Local Municipality mayor Sithembiso Ncetezo, No-answer Tomi, Mirriam Mtebele and MEC for economic development, Oscar Mabuyane, outside the Mtebele house in Zithulele township. Photo: African News Agency (ANA)

BUTTERWORTH - It took over four decades, but 105 families of factory-workers in Butterworth, Eastern Cape, have finally been granted the rights to homes they had been renting since the Apartheid years.  

The Eastern Cape economic development MEC, Oscar Mabuyane, handed proof of ownership letters to Zithulele township families on Wednesday. 

Zithulele was developed by the former Transkei government to provide residential housing for workers that were employed at factories in Butterworth.

The Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) took ownership of the township with its 105 houses and eight vacant plots when the Republic of Transkei ceased to exist. 

Ownership of the township has since been transferred to the Mnquma Local Municipality, which will in turn manage the finalisation of the title deeds for the beneficiaries. 

The houses in Zithulele were initially built with two bedrooms, but many tenants have extended the structures. Their sizes ranges from 300 to 600 square metres.

Speaking to African News Agency (ANA) at the handover, 64-year-old No-answer Tomi said she was a teenager when she arrived in Zithulele with her husband in 1972. 

Eastern Cape economic development MEC Oscar Mabuyane, homeowner Mirriam Mtebele, Mnquma Local Municipality mayor Sithembiso Ncetezo and ECDC CEO Ndzondelelo Dlulani inside Mtebele's house. Photo: Thabang Maseko.

Tomi said her husband had found work in the area's factories and, although he died in 2015, he would have been "delighted" to see his dream come true. 

“My husband would have been delighted. This is what he worked for all of his life. He would have wanted to be here to witness his dreams come true before leaving us," said Tomi. 

She said they extended the house even though there was uncertainty about being able to keep it. 

74-year-old Mirriam Mtebele, also a beneficiary, was in her 20s when she arrived at Zithulele. Mtebele said she had moved from the town of Ngqamakhwe to work at Butterworth's industrial park. 

Mtebele shares her home with her daughter-in-law, four children and five grandchildren and has added three bedrooms to accommodate her large family. 

“Today is a joyous occasion for me and my family even though this moment comes at my old age. Today, after 43 years, I will become a homeowner for the first time. I will have a legacy to leave for my children," said Mtebele, who depends on a pension grant.  

At the handover, ECDC chief executive officer Ndzondelelo Dlulane said: “The municipality will transfer the properties to the current indigent tenants. The tenants do not pay rates or rental on the residential properties. They will have title deeds for the first time which will enhance the dignity of these families."

According to Mabuyane: "We decided not to sell these houses but to give them to these workers who need them and who have called these properties home." 

 He said the combined value of the houses was R5.7-million.

African News Agency (ANA)