Kimberley - An unemployed single mother of five children, the youngest of whom is only three years old, is facing living on the streets after officials from the Sol Plaatje Municipality’s housing department threatened to evict her from her Hercules Court flat on Monday.
This comes amidst a warning from the municipality’s internal audit that the local’s authority’s flat rental system is “critical”. According to the audit report, the municipality has no proof that a deeds search is done to ensure that the rental units are not allocated to property owners, while in one instance a rental unit allocated temporarily for a period of six months to a housing official has not been vacated yet.
The mother, Cindy van Heerden, said on Monday that she had originally moved into the Hercules Court flat with her sister-in-law, who was the legal tenant. “A year ago, my sister-in-law moved into a house with my brother and she made an affidavit at the police station that I was living in the flat.”
According to Van Heerden, she was forced to live with her sister-in-law at the time because she had nowhere else to go, despite applying to the municipality more than 15 years ago for accommodation but had never had any response.
“When my sister-in-law moved out I tried to do the correct thing and went to the municipality and explained the situation. I was referred to the legal department, who asked for all the necessary documentation, including the police affidavit as well as the birth certificates of my children, which I gave to him.”
According to Van Heerden, numerous attempts to get the flat’s rental transferred into her name were rejected by the municipality’s housing officials.
“They just flatly turn me down and say no. I think they have earmarked this specific flat for someone because it has devil’s fork fencing around the perimeter and the flat is well kept.”
She added that on Monday morning, two officials from the housing department arrived and ordered that she vacate the flat.
“I told them that I had nowhere else to live but they said that wasn’t their problem and that if I didn’t vacate the flat, they would force the door open and put my furniture out in the street. They also threatened that they would arrive with the police and the municipality’s security guards to force me out.
“I asked if they had an eviction order, but they stated that they didn’t need one and they could just evict me.”
Van Heerden pointed out that around 60% of the people living in Hercules Court were not the legal tenants.
“I am the only one being targeted, however. There are people here who are living in flats allocated to other people, others are being used for business purposes, while one flat is being occupied by the sons of a woman who died a long time ago. Yet, I, an unemployed mother of five children, am the only one who is being targeted.”
She added that her social grant was stopped two months ago. “I had to go in to reapply but for a few months I have had no income whatsoever. I do odd jobs when the opportunity arises, to earn a few pennies to put food on the table. Now it seems like my children and I might even lose the roof over our heads. I don’t have anywhere else to go.”
Van Heerden said that because her social grant had been stopped, she had fallen behind on the monthly rental for the flat.
According to the list of arrears provided at this month’s housing committee meeting, some of the residents of Hercules Court are in arrears with the municipality for as much as R176 000.
Municipal spokesperson Sello Matsie said that according to the municipality’s housing section, officials had been trying for a while to get the occupants to return the flat keys “as they have purchased a house and left persons unknown in the flat”.
“The occupants have been advised that they are occupying the flat illegally. A call-in letter was issued in February 2019 but the legal tenants did not arrive for the meeting.
“On June 24, the legal tenant visited the housing section and handed over the keys to the flat to formally terminate the lease agreement.
“The legal tenant was asked to put her request in writing and she indicated that this would be done yesterday.”
“Our officials requested the legal tenant to accompany them to the flat for a formal handover as well as an inspection of the flat.
“Upon arrival our officials found a lady (Van Heerden) at the flat, wherafter they immediately advised the legal tenant that she could not hand over the flat if it was not empty.
“The discussion involving the legal section was to inform the legal adviser that the person who engaged with him are not the legal tenants of the property. If documents were handed to the legal section, this office is unaware of it.”
Van Heerden has meanwhile been advised by the municipality to contact the housing office to follow up on her application.
“Our officials will continue to act if any lease agreement is breached, as in this instance, and will follow the necessary procedures to ensure that the flat is returned.”