Winnie Mandela informal settlement residents want their homes
Pretoria - The Ekurhuleni metropolitan municipality is facing possible constitutional damages payable to 133 residents of the Winnie Mandela informal settlement who said it failed on its promises as well as a previous court order to grant them housing.
They have lived in shacks at the settlement without sufficient access to basic services since 1994. All the residents are members of the Ekurhuleni Concerned Residents Association and have been approved and allocated a particular state-subsidised stand.
But they discovered that other people were living there when they tried to move in. As a result they cannot take possession of the stands allocated to them.
They claim that either by fraud or negligence, those stands have been given to other people, unknown to the residents.
In December 2017, the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, ordered the municipality to provide each of the residents with a house at Tembisa Extension 25 or another agreed on location by December 31, 2018.
It was to register the residents as the titleholders of their respective erven by December, 31 2019.
The residents are still waiting for their homes. They have meanwhile turned to the Constitutional Court, with the assistance of the Socio-economic Rights Institute, to force the municipality to honour its obligations.
They also want an order that the municipality pay each of them Constitutional damages to the amount of R5 000 a month, back-paid from June 30, 2019, when the court ordered the municipality to step in and assist them, up to the date in the future when they are indeed allocated with the housing they are entitled to.
The municipality, on the other hand, said they are in the process of allocating houses as soon as they become available. They further argued that R5 000 a month to each resident will amount to millions – money they can ill afford.
The Constitutional Court was also told that Covid-19 hampered the municipality’s efforts to honour the high court order.
The institute, on behalf of the residents, said that constitutional damages were the only form of relief left to the residents to remedy a clear, egregious, and ongoing breach of their rights of access to adequate housing that has stretched out for nearly two decades.
It argued that the residents have been unnecessarily required to endure the effective homelessness, while the high court had ordered that the municipality assist them.
The institute said there was no monetary standard against which their loss can be measured, but R5000 a month would at least allow them to house themselves in the Tembisa area for the time being.
Even though the residents cannot move onto their stands as they have already been allocated to others, the municipality is sending them water and electricity bills, and charging them for municipal rates.
In addition, the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements will not provide the residents with other stands or houses because the housing subsidy database records them as having already received a stand. The residents are accordingly marked as “inactive” on the housing subsidy database.
According to the municipality, the parties have recently reached an agreement in terms of which the residents will within a few months take interim occupation of apartments at Tembisa 25 until free standing houses at Esselen Park are ready in a few years.
Thus, the municipality argued, it is trying its best to house the residents and some can be housed by June this year.
Judgment was reserved.