August 09, 2009 Edition 1 VUYO MABANDLA – Cape Argus
THE Human Settlements Department has slammed those profiteering illegally from subsidised houses in Cape Town townships.
Spokesman Zalisile Mbali yesterday said the department was aware of the illegal selling and renting of RDP houses in Du Noon, Delft and Khayelitsha.
He labelled those who “unlawfully” put their subsidised homes up for sale as “money-hungry individuals, who are greedy and intent on targeting desperate people in need of homes”.
Mbali was responding to questions put to him by the Weekend Argus about a Delft family who fell victim to a landlord who had allegedly sold them a house illegally, and then returned numerous times to intimidate them.
The family of 13, who declined to be named for fear of further victimisation, bought an RDP house in 2005 for R60 000 through an estate agency. The house belonged to a woman who the family described as “pretty well-off”.
No agreements were signed and only a verbal deal was conducted with the agency, as overseer of the deal.
The family said that after moving into the house and paying off an amount of R15 000, the previous owner began visiting them at night and demanding payment.
“She and her husband came here one night (months after moving in) and demanded money and threatened to kick us out if we didn’t pay,” said one of the sisters, who is disabled.
“We told her we did not have it because there’s only one breadwinner in the house.”
The family said they only realised they were in a bad situation when the woman’s visits became frequent.
“We’ve lost count of how many times she came here with her goons and literally tried to throw us out of the house,” said another sister, who feared for her children’s safety.
The family said the last visit was in June this year when the owner attempted to throw the family out and made “death threats”.
“She never gave us any reason why she wanted us out,” they said.
The Anti-Eviction Campaign (AEC) came to the family’s rescue. Member Evelyn Mokeona said they were alerted to the situation when the family came asking for their help.
“We went there in the middle of the night and managed to drive (the owner) off. The family was in panic, children were crying and the others all shaky,” she said.
Mokeona said the sale of the house had not involved any legal documents and that is why the family had found themselves “in a tight spot”.
Attempts to reach the owner and the agency for comment last week were unsuccessful.
Mbali said that the strain of the economic recession was feeding the problem but a lot of the deals were simply caused by “greed”.
“The economic climate has clouded a lot of people monetarily. That is why some people sell their state-given houses and go back to the slums. In some cases it’s rich people who buy RDP homes from poor people for as little as R40 000.
“They then rent them out and run illegal activities, disguising them as innocent-looking spaza shops.
“(The sellers) are not necessarily pushed by the cruelty of the economic downfall but by greed. They use state-owned houses to make money for themselves, while many people are struggling to find homes.”
He said the situation was “worrying,” and that thousands of people on the waiting list could be affected by the problem.
“It causes confusion as to who should receive a house and who should not, because some people choose to return to living in shacks. It’s causing a backlog.”
Mbali said housing MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela planned to look into the matter but could not say whether an initiative similar to the provincial housing verification campaign by former housing head Richard Dyantyi, would be undertaken.
Mbali urged people to be vigilant when involved in the sale of houses and to always seek legal advice.
Mzonke Poni of housing lobby group Abahlali Basemjondolo, said many owners decided to sell their homes because they were unemployed.
“Some feel the best solution to put food on the table is to make use of the government asset and sell them.”
Other homes are rented by foreign business people.
Poni said he did not condone the activity but he understood the recession had hit poorer people hard.
He said the department planned to run a series of workshops next month on consumer rights, highlighting the issue of profiteering from state-given houses.
“We hope it will enlighten everybody that there’s no excuse for illegally dealing in state-given property.”