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Senior citizens want title deeds to their homes

Elderly Khayelitsha residents live in fear of losing the homes they built because they do not have title deeds for the properties. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Elderly Khayelitsha residents live in fear of losing the homes they built because they do not have title deeds for the properties. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Feb 13, 2022


Cape Town - A group of elderly residents in Khayelitsha live in fear that they could lose the homes they built with the assistance of the South African Homeless People’s Federation (SAHPF) more than 20 years ago.

The group of 17, mostly women, say that efforts to get the title deeds for their homes in Site C have been frustrated by red tape. They want the documents to secure their homes for their children one day.

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The Department of Human Settlement (DHS) in the Western Cape has a title deed backlog of 63 000.

Resident Vivian Mgqala, 50, built her house in Orange Street 22 years ago. When she attempted to sell her house she could not do so because she did not have the title deed.

“I tried to sell my house in 2018 but I could not because people did not trust me as it does not have an owner. Now I fear that I might lose it to the municipality,” she said.

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Tembela Mayila, 70, who built her house in 1999, said she had gone from one municipal office to the next trying to acquire the title deed. She feared that after she died her family would be left without a home.

“I have been going up and down looking for a title deed. What is more painful is that some people we built with have the title deed. We are also asking for a subsidy because our houses are not completed as we built them with a loan,” she said.

Ncedo Mtintsilana, 37, who has two siblings, said their mother, who owned the house, died last year before receiving a title deed.

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“There are three of us and our house might be taken (by the municipality) because we just say it is a family house, but it is not registered to any of us,” he said.

The federation is a social housing movement for urban poor which was established more than 30 years ago. The federation loaned people as much as R10 000 so that they could build starter homes while people waited for a government subsidy.

The group paid back the money over the years even though they did get a the government subsidy. The federation assisted with skilled builders and hired constructors too.

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Director of the SAHPF Patricia Matolengwe said: “We lent our members up to R10 000 because they wanted to build starter houses while they were waiting for a subsidy. When the subsidy comes out, we deduct that amount.

“The skilled people in our federation would make sure that the house is started in a correct way and follow the house plan properly,” he said.

Matolengwe said the government had not provided the title deeds at the time of the project.

The DHS said according to its investigation the land belongs to the City of Cape Town.

“It’s been found that all properties listed (except one) are under the ownership of the City of Cape Town,” said Marcellino Martin, spokesperson for the department.

He said the department had handed over 6 352 title deeds for the current financial year.

The City of Cape Town said when it had attempted to issue title deeds, some residents stopped the surveyors.

“Many transfers were rejected by the Registrar of Deeds. When the transfer was first attempted, hostile residents stopped the then-City’s land surveyors from physically demarcating, or pegging these erven. The area was an informal settlement at the time,” said Malusi Booi, Mayco member for Human Settlements.

Marieta Loubser, conveyancing secretary with Kets Attorneys, said to get the title deed, the owner of the land needs to give the conveyancer permission to transfer the land and sign a deed of sale. A deed of sale was an agreement of land transfer between the seller and the buyer.

“The cost of the conveyancer depends on the land value. They check the value of the house and charge a certain percentage for the transfer. People need their identity documents and to present their erf numbers,” said Loubser.

Activist and STOP CoCT founder Sandra Anderson urged the City to speed up the process, saying clearing the backlog could take up to nine years.

“In the Adjustment Budget the Western Cape government allocated R12.4 million to the title deed transfers in Cape Town. However, no time frame was given for completion of the transfers. They are leaving many of the elderly on tenter hooks by not being specific about the time frame in which these transfers would happen,” Anderson said.

ANC spokesperson for the human settlements portfolio committee in the provincial legislature, Andile Lili,

said there were always discussions about title deeds but little action.

“There is no commitment when it comes to the Department of Human Settlements. MEC Tertuis Simmers is not committed to deal with the backlog of the title deeds in the Western Cape. Some people in this backlog have been waiting from the 1990s so it’s over 30 years. The writing is on the wall that the MEC is not committed to deal with the backlog,” he said.