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By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist

‘Flouting by-laws’: Anger erupts over informal settlement near Boksburg suburb

Residents protest as Ekurhuleni's housing project leads to informal settlement near properties.

Ekurhuleni’s R45 million Leeuwpoort housing development has sparked a backlash from homeowners in Cason in Boksburg North after the municipality erected an informal settlement close to their properties for families from Cinderella hostel.

Cinderella, which has for years been home to local and migrant labourers working in the East Rand’s mining towns, was demolished to create space for the massive housing development.

But not everyone could be accommodated in the reconstruction and development programme’s (RDP) newly completed apartment units.

Targeted to yield 22k housing units

Municipal spokesperson Zweli Dlamini described Leeuwpoort as “one of the megaprojects that the human settlements department is implementing”.

“This project is targeted to yield 22 000 housing units.

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“So far, 152 units have been finalised and allocated to approved beneficiaries from Cinderella hostel, Reiger Park and Hlahane,” said Dlamini.

While 90 hostel residents have already been allocated units, Dlamini said some people did not qualify but they still had to be moved “so that the construction of 250 units could proceed and be delivered within the prescribed project plan”.

“The city looked at the possibility of alternative accommodation for people remaining at the hostel.

“The community leadership of Blue Sky informal settlement was engaged on the matter and they agreed that 16 shacks be constructed to accommodate those people, including eight whose shacks had been destroyed by a disaster.

“This led to the construction of 16 shacks in Blue Sky,” said Dlamini.

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He added: “The housing subsidy qualification criteria stipulate that the applicant must be South African, with a household income of between R0 to R3 500 and proof of income.

“You must not have been a homeowner or have financial dependants. “You must be in possession of a permanent residence permit if a foreign national.”

Didn’t qualify for the RDP apartment

But despite getting a South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) grant, Mozambican pensioner Alson Captine Chalique, who has worked in South Africa and lived at Cinderella hostel for over 20 years, did not qualify for the RDP apartment.

Cinderella hostel was demolished to make way for the multimillion-rand Leeuwpoort housing development. Pictures: Brian Sokutu.

“They said I do not qualify and I am now living with friends.

“Although I have a bar-coded South African identity book stating I am a Mozambican, I qualify for the Sassa grant.

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“I have lived here for many years and cannot understand why I am left out,” said Chalique.

New shacks not welcome

For Cason residents, the mushrooming of new shacks in their backyards is not welcome.

Citing concerns about depreciating property value, crime, break-ins and theft, resident Xolani Sithole, who bought his house in the area two years ago, is among those who are unhappy about the metro’s move.

“Ekurhuleni has clearly flouted by-laws on this, having failed to consult property owners in Cason before embarking on the resettlement of hostel residents.

“I love this house and still want to be here.

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“But now with the informal settlement so close, future prospects look dim. I may decide to sell the property.

Soaring crime in the area

“There have been soaring crime levels in the area and I do not want to put my family in danger.

“If the informal settlement does not move, we will be left with no choice but to leave.

“Since the settlement came, there has been metal theft from properties.

“There have been several break-ins at my house, with gutters being ripped off the walls, wheel caps removed from my car and a steel gate removed,” said Sithole.

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“Residents are urged to report incidents of unlawful land occupation or invasion to Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department without delay, so that we can deal with these incidents,” said Dlamini.

“Furthermore, residents are urged to notify the ward councillor and regional manager and request them to intervene.