Media: Court orders immediate probe – Progress for shack dwellers in housing row

10 03 2009

March 09, 2009 Edition 1
Tania Broughton

Source: The Mercury

A Durban High Court has ordered an immediate investigation into the “corrupt allocation” of housing at a low-cost estate in northern Durban, and wants a report on it in two months.
Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter, Nandi Mandela, is named in court papers as being involved in the alleged scam because she is a director of the consultancy hired by the eThekwini Municipality and the provincial Department of Transport to do the allocation.

In a “structured interdict”, Judge Themba Sishi also wants reports every three months on the conditions in a nearby transit camp, to where those who lost out on the formal houses are now being forced to move because their shack settlement is in the path of the construction of a major arterial road.

And he has ordered the municipality to provide permanent housing to those affected in a year.

The issue was raised late last year when the transport department brought an urgent application to evict the 50 families who live in the Siyanda settlement in KwaDabeka so that their homes could be bulldozed to make way for the R550 million MR577 which will cross the Mgeni River to link Inanda and Pinetown.

The residents fought back. They said that they had been promised brick, “better-than-RDP” houses at the nearby Khulula formal housing estate by Mandela’s Linda Masinga and Associates in 2005.

They said that those houses had now been given to “outsiders”- a fact conceded by Mandela – and they were now being forced to move to an “unsightly and uninhabitable” transit camp about 1.5km away.

They said transit camps were like concentration camps with razor-wire fencing, spotlights, single entrances and 24-hour police guards. Residents were often highly controlled in these places, as if they were in prisons.

They would be forced to live in containers with no access to decent amenities, and would then simply “fall off the radar” and be forgotten, like others who had been forced to move to such camps.

While the shack dwellers were refusing to move, Durban’s Legal Resources Centre drafted new court papers suggesting the “structured interdict”.

At a hearing in the judge’s chambers on Friday, the interdict was made an order of court with the consent of the transport department. Although named as a party to the proceedings, the municipality remained silent on the issue.

In terms of the order, the Siyanda families agreed to move to the camp by March 17.

S’bu Zikode, of shack dwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo, which supported the residents in their court battle, said the state’s compliance with the orders would be monitored.

“We also insist that the investigation into corruption must be done independently,” he said. “This is major progress. There is now judicial oversight over the camps and claims of corruption.”

However, he said, problems were already looming because a site visit to the camp at the weekend had revealed that there were only 23 rooms available for the 50 families, no clean running water, and blocked toilets, despite assurances given to the judge by transport department lawyers.

“The judge was given wrong information. We will be contacting our lawyers on Monday to discuss the way forward,” said Zikode.

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