Abahlali rises up to stop corruption and forced removals in Langa TRA

by Jul 7, 2012All Articles

Abahlali baseLanga TRA – 5 July 2012
Abahlali baseMjondolo Western Cape Press Statement

 

 

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Yesterday, Abahlali baseMjondolo youth took physical action to block the Housing Development Agency from moving residents of Joe Slovo Informal Settlement into Langa Temporary Relocation Area calling the process corrupt and at the expense of… current residents of the TRA.

The SANCO (South Africa National Civic Organization) aligned TRA committee is selling TRA structures and houses with the tacit support of the HDA. Many of the current residents of the TRA have also been pushed off the housing lists and large-extended families are being counted as single families and therefore slated for eviction from the TRA once their relatives are allocated homes.

 

The action by our youth was a last resort as housing officials have ignored our complaints and refuse to consult with us in good faith.

Because of our action, the HDA and the TRA committee has been forced to call a meeting with us for tomorrow at 6pm inside Langa TRA Creche to resolve the crisis.

Background

On 15 January 2005, Joe Slovo informal settlement and adjacent hostels were devastated by a shack fire seriously injuring seven people and leaving about 10,000 people homeless. Some of the fire victims were sent to TRAs in the far away township Delft and were promised houses back in Langa after the completion of Phase 1 of the N2 Gateway housing project. The rest were put in Langa Temporary Relocation Area and also promised houses either in Joe Slovo or in Delft.

After the managing agent, Thubelisha Homes (now renamed the Housing Development Agency) and the Housing Department reneged on their promise of accommodating Joe Slovo residents in Phase 1 and built unaffordable rental flats in its place, the remaining 15,000 residents of Joe Slovo rose up in defiance of their own pending removal to TRAs in Delft.

Joe Slovo’s inspiring struggle which included numerous mega marches in the city centre and an effective road blockade of the N2 freeway, eventually turned public opinion against the evictions and Lindiwe Sisulu’s arrogance. Even though they lost a Concourt case on the matter, the Housing Department eventually capitulated – they didn’t have the political capital to forcibly remove 15,000 people.

Langa TRA – the old committee

The Langa TRA was built in 2005 to house the Joe Slovo and hostel fire victims temporarily until they could all be accommodated in the N2 Gateway housing project.

That same year, the community elected the first community committee in the TRA with Mr Mbambalala as its chairperson. However, soon the committee in charge became involved in corruption and they refused to call community meetings and submit to the mandate of the people. When confronted by the people who elected him, Mr Mbambalala refused to step down.

In 2011, after it emerged that the committee was illegally selling TRA structures to outsiders, the community broke down five shacks. In June 2011, the community effectively removed Mr Mbambalala and the rest of the committee by force. However, the newly formed HDA refused to acknowledge the wishes of the people and continued to work with this old committee. Eventually, without community support, Mbambalala stopped being active.

Langa TRA – the corruption of the housing list

In July 2011, the community elected a new committee with SANCO member Zukisani Sibunzi as its chairperson. They were handed a housing list with most of us on it. In June 2012, the HDA handed the new committee a list of people who would be allocated houses in Delft and houses were allocated immediately to the people on the list. However, this was a completely different list than the original list we received in July 2011.

We are now furious that all of a sudden we will not be receiving the houses in Delft that we had been promised.

Many TRA residents seem to have been removed from the housing list by HDA who says we do not qualify because of dubious technicalities such as missing birth certificates or problematic/traditional marriage licenses. Once residents bring the necessary documents, however, the HDA still declines the residents’ applications and refuses to investigate the matter.

Instead, it seems that the houses are being irregularly allocated to people who don’t qualify and often already have houses of their own.

More corruption in the TRA

There is also now evidence of corruption on the new TRA committee. Committee members are selling and allocating TRAs to people who are not from either the TRA or from the Joe Slovo community. Abahlali members have surfaced with first-hand accounts and audio evidence that some of these structures are being sold illegally by committee chairperson Zukisani. There is also evidence that some families who are connected to the committee are getting allocated two TRA structures instead of one. For instance, Zukisani currently has two shacks in the TRA.

As Abahlali baseLanga TRA, we are furious because we are not being consulted and this new committee is also acting without our mandate.

Our leftover youth

It has now emerged that because people are going to Delft, there are new open spaces in the TRAs. Our TRA shacks consist of lots multi-family households, original Joe Slovo fire victims, who are cramped into these 24square meter shacks. The Housing Department is supposed to allocate one TRA structure per qualifying individual of age (unless they are married). However, they are lumping our extended families all into one.

Since the HDA is now bringing in residents of Joe Slovo Informal Settlement into the TRAs to make way for the rest of the N2 Gateway housing project, they are attempting to remove everyone out of the TRA including the extended families (mostly youth) who do not yet qualify for the RDP houses in Delft. The HDA says that our youth will be forced to set up their own shacks in some informal settlement or be dumped in another TRA in Delft.

Our youth and other leftovers of the project feel this is unfair and are refusing to leave the TRA calling on HDA and the Housing Department to allocate some of the empty structures for their needs.

After being ignored, community takes action

The HDA is moving people from Joe Slovo into the TRA at the expense of the residents of the TRA without even bothering to consult us.

As a result, the community of Abahlali baseMjondolo has decided to stop the trucks from bringing in the belongings of Joe Slovo residents saying that these are our TRA structures and we will be left homeless if Joe Slovo residents are moved into the TRA.

Yesterday, we twice prevented trucks from moving people’s belongings into the TRA. The police and furious HDA officials showed up and after some heated discussions, they were compelled to agree to meet with Abahlali today at 6pm at the Langa TRA creche. As a sign of good faith, residents then let in the one moving truck of Joe Slovo residents whose shacks had already been broken down by the HDA but refused to let anyone new in until our demands are met and the crisis is resolved.

We call on support and solidarity with our following demands.

Our demands

We demand an independent investigation into why we as qualifying poor shack-dwelling families are being declined by the HDA. We also demand that the HDA work to resolve all technical barriers for residents and that all qualifying residents immediately be put back on the housing list.

We demand that each qualifying family living in the TRA who does not receive a RDP house, keep their TRA structure or get allocated one rather than be forcibly removed from the TRA.

We demand an independent investigation into corruption in the community by the HDA and the SANCO aligned Langa TRA committee. We demand an investigation into the people who are being allocated two houses and the people who are selling these houses.

For more information, contact:

Cindy @ 0760866690
Mr Qona @ 0713518483
Jongi @ 0781966724

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