We write to the housing department to find out why the Barracks tenants were forcibly removed from their houses and why their previous dwellings were destroyed and not upgraded as they had requested.
Yunus Sacoor, Deputy Head of Housing, eThekwini Municipality, responds that; the Housing Department assisted all tenants in the relocation process to ensure that the movement process took place in an orderly fashion. They were moved because the Tara Road complex was located within the Major Hazardous Industrial (MHI) zone, and therefore alternative accommodation was made available for the tenants. According to him all tenants agreed in writing to the relocation to the new complex.
When asked about the issue of overcrowding and whether a proper headcount was done of the members of the community, many of whom lived in overcrowded homes, he responded; when families are relocated to other projects, it is done on the basis of one flat per family. Family units are not constructed taking into account existing over-crowding per unit because this should not happen.
When asked to clarify overcrowding and extended families, he responded that; extended families are additional family living with the legal tenant/owner. They can be married children, uncles, nephews etc. At the time of allocation, they were not declared as inhabitants of the dwelling by the legal tenant. The size of the dwelling therefore commensurate with the family requirements as the Housing Act does not encourage overcrowding.
When asked whether more space or housing will be allocated to the members of the Barracks community, who have forcibly occupied the existing ten empty flats because they have now been rendered homeless, he responded; they would have to seek accommodation elsewhere.
When asked why the community were allocated less space than they enjoyed in their previous dwellings, he responded that; the only suitable land in Wentworth was located in Lansdowne Road and the size of land and funding available was not conducive to construct more or larger units. The units constructed were in accordance with existing Social Housing Standards.
When asked what the Housing Department was planning to do about the many flaws in the new flats, he responded that; any new development is subject to problems with regard to usage and whatever defects are being discovered, are being repaired accordingly by the Contractor.
When asked about the allocation of flats to the elderly, which had no wheelchair access, he responded that; the CLO assisted with the allocation of flats for the elderly and we are under the impression that these issues were addressed accordingly.
When asked about what safety measures were being put in place to remedy the dangerous gaps beneath the blocks of flats, which poses a danger to the children, he responded that; they are currently investigating this issue.
When asked whether they intend to build a park for the children where the parents could watch them play, he responded that; there is ample space in between the units for children to play.
When asked who the 10 flats that have been occupied by Barracks residents, had been allocated to, he responded that; they were allocated to indigent and homeless families who are resident in Wentworth area.
Finally when asked what the Housing Department intends to do concerning the residents who have invaded those flats, he responded that; the matter has been handed over to the Council’s Legal Section for appropriate action in terms of the law.
A community member,who asked not be named, has informed us that to date no one from the municipality has been to see them regarding the defects in the flats.
She also says that a proper headcount was never done in the community to establish how many extra flats they required because of overcrowding, and that the issue was simply ignored by the developers and the municipality.
She said that they suspect that flats have been allocated to people with strong ties to the ANC and that they have not been allocated to indigent and homeless people, but in fact sold to friends, girlfriends and family members of the ANC.
She informed us that the community members who invaded the empty flats are seeking legal representation from the Legal Resource Centre. (LRC).