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Hostels must fall, says housing minister

Published May 8, 2015

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Cape Town -

Lindiwe Sisulu wants to tear down South Africa’s notorious hostels – the scene of much of the xenophobic rioting in Joburg last month.

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Indunas, the hostel leaders, have warned though that they won’t be part of anything that does not guarantee them proper houses – and they refuse to go into temporary shelters while the government breaks down existing hostels and builds new ones.

On Thursday, at a pre-budget vote, the human settlements minister said told MPs during her budget vote that hostels had to go because they had no place in a reconfigured state.

“Most of them (hostel residents) have spent a great deal of their time in cities. That they may have a holiday home in Mqanduli (in the Eastern Cape) doesn’t make them different from someone with a holiday home in Camps Bay who works in Brakpan,” she said.

Hostel residents would qualify either for a state-subsidised house, or community residential unit. It was time for South Africa to shed lingering legacy of apartheid and deal with the often atrocious living conditions in hostels: “They (hostels) are a very painful relic of our past... They (hostel residents) should live as part of society,” said Sisulu.

But in Alexandra’s Madala hostel, induna Bafowethu Sokhela said on Thursday ight: “What she’s saying has been said for years by many other politicians. Right now, they’re supposed to be developing the hostel as they said they would – but they’re doing nothing.”

He has lived in the hostel since the 1980s.

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“The hostel has many people living in it. I don’t think they’ll have enough space to house us all. We won’t allow them to put us in temporary homes. We want houses just like other people in the country.”

Sokhela said the government must house every Madala hostel resident before it shut the place.

“They need to come in and get everyone’s information and move us into houses block by block if they have to. But they can’t close it till we have houses.”

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The decision comes on the back of the refusal by residents of some Gauteng hostels to move into upgraded buildings, renovated from the apartheid-era single male accommodation into family units since 2009.

Following the upgrade, residents had to pay R750 a month.

Hostel residents complained they hadn’t been properly consulted and couldn’t afford the monthly rental.

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Diepkloof, Soweto, hostel residents took to the streets to protest over housing on Monday.

This was the second protest by the hostel dwellers in Diepkloof following a protest in the area in June last year over lack of housing.

In Parliament, Sisulu said the government would like to “gradually abolish hostels in our towns, and hostel dwellers who have lived in our towns for a number of years would qualify for a Breaking New Ground house, or the CRU (community residential units) subsidy, depending on their specific circumstances”.

She said they had agreed with the mayors that upgraded hostels would be taken over by the Social Housing Regulatory Authority.

“This we will do in every town where we have upgraded hostels and hostel dwellers have not taken up residency.”

 

She said the government would accommodate hostel dwellers in temporary shelters while it put up permanent houses for them.

These social housing units would be given to young people under the age of 40 and who cannot afford to buy a house.

Sisulu said the recent raids on hostels in Jeppe and Alexandra in Joburg during xenophobic violence were not because they were targeting hostel dwellers.

The army and police raids at the hostels were a result of the violence emanating from those areas.

 

“We don’t associate them with evil,” she said.

The minister said there was no fixed date for the plan to complete the abolishment of hostels.

Surveys would be done on all the hostels throughout the country.

Subsequently, Gauteng Human Settlements MEC Jacob Mamabolo told The Star the survey had already been undertaken and would finalised by next Friday.

DA MP Makashule Gana said houses built for hostel dwellers in Diepkloof and Mzimhlophe in Soweto were still empty after more than 10 years.

The national Department of Human Settlements is shifting its focus to mega-projects in order to tackle the country’s 1.5 million-unit housing backlog.

About 150 project applications have been received from the public and private sectors.

These would be processed to get under way over the next four years.

Sisulu said 60 percent of work would be done by youth brigades, funded by a ringfenced R159m, in an effort to transfer skills and create employment opportunities for young people.

However, the Human Settlements Department is also undertaking a review of its tender processes, described as its “biggest headache”, to prevent corruption and fraud.

A new procurement system should prevent abuse.

Political Bureau and The Star

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