Kimberley - An unemployed single mother of five, who is fighting for the right to live in a municipal flat, is still without electricity after the Sol Plaatje Municipality cut the cables to her prepaid meter.
The mother, Cindy van Heerden, whose youngest child is only three years old, believes that there is a targeted campaign by officials in the municipality’s housing department to remove her from the flat.
The family has been without electricity for more than 10 days already and in desperation Van Heerden has now turned to her ward councillor, Okkie Fourie, in an attempt to get someone at the municipality’s housing department to hear her plea for assistance.
Van Heerden applied to the Sol Plaatje Municipality 15 years ago for a municipal flat. Out of desperation after her application amounted to nothing, she moved into the flat in Hercules Court occupied by her sister-in-law. When her sister-in-law vacated the flat last year, Van Heerden again approached the municipality and tried to get the flat transferred onto her own name so that she and her children could continue to live there legally.
“The officials at the municipality refused to put the flat onto my name and when I told them that I had nowhere else to go with my children, they said that it wasn’t their problem.”
Van Heerden believes that the officials have earmarked her flat for someone and have targeted her in an attempt to intimidate her and force her to leave.
“They cut my prepaid electricity supply in an attempt to force me out.”
She added that she had nowhere to go with her children and if they were evicted, the destitute family would be out on the streets.
A petition is meanwhile also doing the rounds, accusing “the occupants” of her flat in Hercules Court of “wreaking havoc, abuse and social decay since they illegally started occupying the flat”.
Fourie, however, said yesterday that he believed that someone at the municipality’s housing department, who wanted Van Heerden out, was behind the so-called petition.
“It appears that they want to give her flat to another family of nine people who live in a one-bedroomed flat in the same block,” Fourie said yesterday.
He pointed out further that the disconnection notice from the municipality also refers to a “kiosk” and not a flat.
“This mother has absolutely nothing,” Fourie added yesterday. “She doesn’t even have a gas cooker to cook food on. The family has been living without electricity for more than 10 days already during one of the coldest times of the year. Soon, schools will reopen and then what?”
Fourie pointed out that if the municipality wanted to evict Van Heerden because she was not the legal tenant, the local authority would have to take similar action against all the illegal tenants occupying municipal flats.
“As members of the city council’s housing committee, we have been asking for the waiting list for municipal flats for years already but our requests are just ignored. Attempts a few years ago to physically verify the occupants of the flats was met with armed resistance. It appears that no one knows what is going on in these flats or what percentage are being occupied illegally. Some of them are even being used to conduct businesses from.”
While the Sol Plaatje Municipality currently does not have a formalised policy for providing access to housing opportunities, a draft integrated human settlement policy has been drawn up, although it has not yet been adopted.
In terms of the draft policy, the prioritisation criteria for subsidised housing, in order of preference, is: child-headed households, senior citizens, disabled citizens, unemployed women-headed households with dependants, unemployed HIV/Aids-headed households with/without dependants, unemployed households with dependants, unemployed without dependants, employed women-headed households with dependants, employed HIV-Aids-headed households with/without dependants, and single women.
Fourie added that according to the municipality’s legal department, Van Heerden could not be evicted from the flat without the municipality first obtaining an eviction order from the court.
“Efforts to assist this family are being thwarted from every corner. Attempts to get an urgent appointment with the executive mayor to discuss the issue have also been unsuccessful,” Fourie added.
The Sol Plaatje Municipality failed to respond to media enquiries.