Housing development destroyed my business

Mary-Jane Matsolo
News
Andiswa (not her real name) has been a resident of Khayelitsha Site C for 27 years. She turned her township home into a BnB business in 2006 offering tourists the exclusive and unique option of experiencing life in a shack. This all came to a screeching halt in April 2009 when her house was destroyed by BKS employees.

The BKS employees claimed that her corner house property took the space of two plots and that the space of her home that fell on the other plot would be demolished.

“I became bankrupt after that because I had put everything I had into that business and in a flash it was all gone” said a visibly distraught Andiswa.

BKS is the company outsourced by the City of Cape Town to facilitate the Site C housing project in Khayelitsha. Andiswa claims that there is a lot of corruption happening with the housing project and people who should not be getting houses are buying officials working for BKS in order to get houses. She remembered the day the housing project was introduced to them and how excited she was at the thought of owning a brick house.

Andiswa explained that a meeting was held in Solomon Tshuku hall in Site C with then MEC for local government and housing Richard Dyantjie. They were told that currently the shacks on these plots were too congested and some residents would have to move. Based on a survey conducted among residents of Site C in 2003, a project called the Resolution of Landowners Rights Project was implemented to resolve the double occupation of properties to allow tenure for such beneficiaries. The construction of houses was done in terms of the Peoples Housing Process (PHP) on the allocated sites. The plan was to divide the plot into sections and where there is a backyard dweller in a plot, they would be required to move to Kuyasa, a housing development elsewhere in Khayelitsha.

Residents were also told they would be receiving letters informing them who was able to stay in Site C and who should go to Kuyasa. These letters were colour-coded: a yellow letter meant that you were allowed to stay in Site C and a blue letter meant you had to vacate and move into a house provided by the city in Kuyasa. Those people with a blue letter who didn't want to leave their homes would be forcefully moved by city officials. Andiswa received a yellow letter giving her permission to stay with her ERF number and all of her details such as her ID number and all the members of the family that stayed in the plot.

At that meeting, they were also instructed to take their letters and get them registered with BKS who would be handling the process and ensuring the correct people receive the correct houses. Unfortunately instead, Andiswa says, after the houses were built they saw people they didn’t know moving in.

Councillor Tandeka Gqada, Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements in the City of Cape Town has denied this saying no houses were given or sold to anyone.

Andiswa also noticed that her new neighbors were different in other ways, "You could clearly see they had money because they renovated their houses within a short space of time and their plots were big."

People in the area like local resident Zingisile Mnikina received a call asking him to go to the BKS offices to fill in a new folder because his original one had been lost. When he went to the offices he discovered that on his plot two recipients appeared himself and another person unknown to him, he inquired about this and wanted to know how it happened but was told by the BKS administration that they only work with what they see in the computer which reflected the other person’s name and not his.

Andiswa also recalled that in the same meeting with Mr Dyantjie which took place between 2004/5 they were also informed that all developed property, registered businesses and crèches would not be affected by the housing development but would instead be given bigger property to run their business. Sadly this was not the case for her BnB as BKS insisted that her corner house was too big and that the law stated that a person’s plot should not exceed 120 square metres even though she was had a registered business of her own.

She recalled how she met up with city officials with trucks outside her home ready to tear down her home and business, but when she asked for a court order, they retracted. Andiswa recalled how BKS field workers cursed and scolded at her saying that she thought she was clever and that they would be back. They returned after two months and this time managed to crush one side of Andiswa’s property destroying her business. On that day of the demolish Andiswa recalled coming back from the shops to find a letter laying in her yard soon after reading the letter which was from BKS instructing her to vacate the plot in seven days. She mentioned how it looked like a photo-copied letter, when about 15 cars parked outside her home and started demolishing one half of her plot.

"BKS field workers were even taking video footage of the event" said Andiswa

Andiswa has since opened up a case against BKS even asking the public protector in 2009 to look into her case but she was refered to the City of Cape Town to investigate her case.

Following the many complaints from people about housing issues, the community members of Khayelitsha Site C decided to develop a task team to handle individual cases in the community against BKS. Koko Matutu is the Vice Chairperson of the housing task team committed to investigating complaints launched by beneficiaries of houses that are not receiving them.

Matutu explained that they formed the task team because they noticed that people who were never part of the registration process were receiving houses. Many of the these unknown beneficiaries were also in leadership positions with SANCO. While many community members tried to speak with then BKS facilitator Kuku Jacobs, they could never get hold of her for clarification as to what to do about the ~30 unanswered complainants of being robbed of their rightful homes.

Councillor Gqada said that there are unfortunately too many people in Site C – and many people could therefore not be formally allocated to their plots. The BKS offices closed down in July 2012 because the appointment of BKS had expired, due the length of time that they were involved in Site C, in compliance with the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) legislation. She further explained that a forensic investigation of BKS was done in 2012 and no evidence of wrong doing was found.

Currently the Khayelitsha housing project is being run by the City of Cape Town. Although BKS has left behind a number of unanswered questions in the ten years that they operated in Khayelitsha the City of Cape Town is not investigating them, it does however advice that anyone with concrete evidence of irregularities should bring such evidence to the City’s Forensic Services Department and that residents can report criminal activities and any form of corruption to the City’s fraud hotline on 0800 32 31 30. Their identity will be kept anonymous.

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