Hitting a brick wall over housing
Tshwane and the provincial government, long before the municipality changed hands, planned to relocate residents from the dolomitic Mooiplaas informal settlement in Centurion. A new RDP development was conceived at Extension 27 in Olievenhoutbosch for the residents.
But rubber bullets and teargas flew in Olievenhoutbosch when the then ANC government attempted to relocate the Mooiplaas residents to the new houses.
Their new neighbours just would not have people coming from another area to occupy the houses, while they, too, had been on the housing list since the 1990s. The City at the time suspended the relocation pending the conclusion of a whole lot of processes, including consultation.
Now the Msimanga administration and provincial government find themselves entangled in the same mess. It is in fact double the trouble this time, as people in Olievenhoutbosch have since helped themselves to the houses.
An application to evict them is before the high court, but the occupants of the houses have made their stance very clear: they will not move, no matter what. They have also threatened that should their Mooiplaas counterparts occupy the houses, Msimanga and Makhura will collect corpses from the area every morning.
The situation is so tense that those in Olievenhoutbosch who work or do business in the wealthier Centurion region leave work early to go and protect “their” houses, fearing that an eviction could happen when they are not home.
Makhura and Msimanga earlier this month promised that the Mooiplaas relocation was imminent and that an agreement had been reached with community leaders in Olievenhoutbosch for the process to unfold peacefully and the two groups to live together in harmony.
However, in Olievenhoutbosch, the residents were quick to dismiss that, saying there had been no agreement.
In fact, they stated they were tired of waiting for houses and intended staying in Extension 27, come rain or shine.
And when the application for their eviction was postponed in the high court the other day, they had come out in large numbers “carrying” the same message.
During the State of the Capital address, Msimanga told the special council that the ANC promised people of both Olievenhoutbosch and Mooi-plaas the same set of houses while campaigning ahead of the 2016 municipal polls. This, according to him, caused the impasse that was proving difficult to untangle. Msimanga also blamed ANC councillors for sowing divisions in the affected communities.
He pleaded with Olievenhoutbosch leaders to do the right thing so that the houses could be allocated to the rightful beneficiaries. But that fell on deaf ears, and the occupants have reiterated their defiance.
Days later, ANC Tshwane leader Mapiti Matsena denied that both communities were promised the same set of houses. He urged the City and province to resolve the situation as soon as possible. Tshwane, like the rest of the country, sits with a massive housing backlog, attributed largely to in-migration as people from previously disadvantaged areas seek better economic activities in big cities.
As matters stand, Msimanga and Makhura have hit a brick wall - they are stranded in the middle of a community that must be moved from a dolomitic area, another desperate for houses that will help itself to any that’s available, as well as the law that requires them to provide alternative accommodation before evicting people. Sooner or later, something will have to give.
It will require the wisdom of the honourable men and women of the robe in the high court to resolve the dispute.
Meanwhile, the feared and des- tructive bullet-and-teargas style of eviction is edging closer to reality in Olievenhoutbosch.
The sad truth is that for every Thembelihle Village, the new housing project in the CBD launched last week, there is another that is in dispute, desperate people grabbing land to build shacks, homeless and backyard dwellers needing housing, and hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries on the waiting list.
Msimanga and Makhura have a constitutional duty to serve them all.
Mudzuli is the Pretoria News assistant editor. He writes in his personal capacity.