Backyarders finish houses abandoned by contractor

But the City of Cape Town says the contractor will be back and the occupiers will be evicted

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Backyarders and other people have occupied unfinished houses in the Mau-Mau housing project, and put on their own roofs. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

  • Backyarders and others have occupied and fixed up unfinished houses in the Mau-Mau housing project in Cape Town.

  • They moved in when the project, started in 2018, was delayed.

  • Some have put on their own roofs and windows and made illegal connections to electricity and water.

  • But the City of Cape Town says since they are not the rightful beneficiaries they will be evicted.

Nyanga backyarders have occupied incomplete houses in the delayed Mau-Mau housing project, buying their own windows, doors and roofs. But the City of Cape Town says since they are not the proposed beneficiaries they will be evicted.

Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements Malusi Booi says the City has issued notices to the unlawful occupants to vacate. He says this is a step in the legal process to obtain an eviction order, which is underway.

Some of the backyarders say they are the beneficiaries of the houses, but most acknowledge that they are not. But they say the project, launched in 2018 and originally due for completion in 2019, has been delayed so long that they moved in.

Three weeks ago, some of the occupiers were busy fixing the roofing of incomplete double storey houses. Men were digging holes and installing water pipes.

Some have installed electricity and water illegally. They say they have used their own money to buy cables and water pipes.

A group of about eight residents, who claimed to be community leaders but who would not give their names, said they would fight the eviction process in court.

One occupier, Luzuko Diniso, said he had spent nearly R50,000 fixing up the house he moved into in March. “I bought bricks, windows, roofing, doors and cement. I had to hire people to finish the building,” he said.

“These houses have been like this for the past two years. I’m not a beneficiary. I saw people fixing them, and I did the same. I’m tired of renting. I saw an opportunity to own a house and I used it,” he said.

Diniso said the City should focus on finishing other houses that are not occupied rather than evicting the people who had finished the houses.

“We are South African citizens. We are voters. Having a house is also our right,” he said.

In June 2020, Nyanga residents started occupying the houses. At the time the backyarders were not among the occupiers. However, early this year they started moving in.

Booi acknowledged that the project, which comprises 434 units, had been slowed down. He said the contractor had cash flow challenges but had secured additional funding.

“The contractor committed on 24 June to return to site and once they receive the additional funding, there should be no further impediments to progress.” GroundUp is aware that the contractor was still not on site by 21 July.

Booi said 274 applications for houses had been approved and 187 applications were being processed.

“The housing need in Cape Town, as with other urban centres across South Africa, is acute, and we cannot allow rightful beneficiaries who have waited their turn for an opportunity to be pushed out by those who have not been on the waiting list or who do not qualify for state-subsidised housing,” said Booi.

Asked if alternative houses would be provided for the occupiers, he said: ”In terms of the court’s requirements, it is likely that alternative accommodation will need to be provided to those who form part of the eviction proceedings.” Alternative accommodation would not necessarily be a “brick and mortar” house but more likely a home in an existing informal settlement or a temporary resettlement area, he said.

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TOPICS:  Housing

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