Statement by Jack Bloom MPL

DA Gauteng Caucus Leader

Johannesburg Council should upgrade the Protea South informal settlement in Soweto, rather than harass the residents and force them to move.

This is my conclusion after visiting there yesterday together with DA councillor Maureen Mnisi, and staying the night at the shack home of Ms Maggie Mkabi. This is my fourteenth “Don’t forget the forgotten” monthly visit to neglected communities in Gauteng.

This informal settlement started 24 years ago and according to council figures has about 5500 shacks.

In August 2009 the Johannesburg High Court ordered the council not to remove them, and to provide basic services. But there are an inadequate number of chemical toilets and residents get water mostly from illegal connections to water pipes.

Some residents have been offered RDP houses in Lufhereng, but there will never be enough for all of them and many want to stay because Protea South is close to jobs, schools and transport. I met 36 year old Themba Qwashu who lives in a shack adjacent to his mother. She accepted a council offer to move to a RDP house in Lufhereng, but the council insists that his shack be demolished and that he move into the RDP house as well. He has a wife and three children, so this one RDP house would have to accommodate five adults and nine children including all those that presently stay with his mother. When he found a pro deo lawyer who helped him resist this forced removal, the township manager arbitrarily cancelled the allocation of a house to his mother.

Another sad story is that of Mary Dire, who lost her two children when her shack burnt down last year. She tried to rebuild, but a ward committee member stopped her, and she moved to the nearby Waterworks squatter camp. She was supposed to get a RDP house this year, but the authorities turned her down as they had no shack to attach. The council is very unfair in cancelling RDP houses for some people and demolishing the shacks of others who don’t want to move.

Residents believe people connected to council officials stand to make millions by moving the people and selling the land to housing developers

My view is that the council should obey the 2009 court order and formalise this settlement by giving title deeds to residents and upgrading services.

Illegal electricity attachments are a big problem. Three weeks ago a man sitting in the back of a bakkie died after touching a low slung live wire. A small boy was lucky this week to survive an electric shock.

Electricity should be installed as well as proper sanitation. The roads must be fixed up and street lights put in.

It’s a peaceful community who made me feel very welcome when I stayed the night.

I will do my best to try and help them so that they live where they want to and get the basic services they need so that they can uplift themselves.

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