SHERON MOTHIBA, one of the backyard  dwellers who have illegally occupied the new Mamelodi Extension 5 flats.     Bongani Shilubane  African News Agency (ANA)
SHERON MOTHIBA, one of the backyard dwellers who have illegally occupied the new Mamelodi Extension 5 flats. Bongani Shilubane African News Agency (ANA)

Mamelodi flat dwellers angry over lack of permanent homes

By SAKHILE NDLAZI Time of article published Jan 28, 2020

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Pretoria - Wheelchair-bound Sheron Mothiba has been living in a back room at her parent’s family house for decades.

She has been trying relentlessly to move out because of family politics and overcrowding at the house. Her dignity and privacy have been invaded at all kinds of levels by her aunts, uncles and cousins who feel entitled to the family house.

“Just imagine being crowded at a place you would like to relax and call home. Every day is a constant battle with each family member claiming the house and not even being given enough privacy to take a decent bath because of many people in the yard.

“What’s worse is that I’m in a wheelchair and need more space. I’m not using my disability as a pity card, but that’s the reality,” Mothiba said.

She had been applying for a house for decades now, with no luck.

Mothiba said soaring house prices and flawed housing allocations leave millions of young adults unable to afford to move out of their family homes.

The government and its policies ignored the backyard housing phenomenon, as it was considered to be a temporary option which would eventually diminish once RDP houses were made available, she added.

This reality for hundreds, such as Mothiba, has resulted in a loss of faith in politicians and councillors.

Mothiba is one of the hundreds of back-room dwellers who illegally occupied the Mamelodi East Extension 5 flats in December. The dwellers have vowed to stay on even after an eviction order was handed down by the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria.

They were given seven days, which have since lapsed, to vacate the flats. The flats have two bedrooms, a kitchen, toilet and shower. But yesterday the majority still occupied the flats, vowing that they were not going anywhere.

One of the community leaders said they wanted to appeal against the judgment and for their councillor to address them properly so they could forge a way forward.

“The councillor must visit us with no police or media just himself. That’s what he does when he wants votes; he comes alone. Why does he have to come with a contingency now?” he said.

They allege that the government was wrongly prioritising the allocation of serviced stands and RDP houses to people from mushrooming informal settlements.

They also complained that they were made perpetual property renters, and the government was only interested in providing RDP housing for townships while not considering back-room dwellers in urban areas. They claimed the government was not listening to them, they are simply ignored. This was after they had put these politicians in power.

“So we will not vote in the upcoming local elections. What is the point if the people in power don’t have our best interests at heart,” said another resident.

Khutso Thubakgale, another backyard dweller, said she grew tired of living in subhuman conditions. She is 45, unemployed and lives in a shack with her parents, brother, sister, their children and her own children.

The family’s only source of income is the grant her parents receive from the state. All three generations of Thubakgale family live in the same backyard.

“I have been applying for a house since 1999 I have seen people who recently applied and received houses. I’ve seen foreigners occupy houses. I’m fed up and that’s why I moved here,” she said.

Timothy Khanyile, also one of the flat invaders, said problems arose during the houses’ allocation by the department.

He said they discovered that a lot of people who live in backyard rooms in Mamelodi had been overlooked.

“We asked the people allocating the homes to produce data which could prove that the people moving into the houses were on the waiting list and they failed. We then allocated ourselves some of the houses,” Khan-yile said.

All the people who have moved into the houses were not willing to leave. “We are not going anywhere. These are our homes now,” he said.

But MEC for Human Settlements, Urban Planning and Cogta Lebogang Maile warned the invaders to vacate the buildings.

“We will continue to remove people who occupy houses illegally. We are not going to be intimidated.

“We are not going to be blackmailed because that is wrong. We just have to be decisive in dealing with people who occupy houses and land illegally,” Maile said.

The City said the project was 97% completed. This excluded additional items that were still required, such as perimeter fencing, guard house/bin area, walkways, security and landscape lighting.

“To date, 11 blocks have been completed and only need minor plumbing works to be fully complete. The remaining 3 blocks require minor finishes,” MMC for housing Sello Maimane said.

They had already started allocating prior to the invasions. “To date, qualifying and approved beneficiaries have been provisionally allocated.”

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