Attached is an open letter about housing in Masiphumelele and related matters (government survey, disasters and 2nd access road, NGO Forum, AN and phase 4, appeal to overcome poverty 2014) – and a response by Cllr Felicity
If you agree or disagree – maybe a public debate via more letters can encourage practical steps long before the next elections.
Dr Lutz van Dijk, Clovelly
The response by the Cllr can be read in the FB Echo of 20 August 2015, page 10.
A PLEA FOR COOPERATION AND LEADERSHIP IN MASI
In October, it will be exactly 9 years that a fire destroyed more than 400 shacks in one night. That was in 2006. For the first time ever a group of residents started to unite behind the plan to build proper houses on an
informal settlement area called School Site. The incredible happened when people cooperated on housing in Masi: The housing organization “Amakhaya ngoku – Homes now” was founded, registered and resulted in homes built with housing subsidies covering half the cost and private donors contributing the other half.
Hopes for a better future for the poorest of the poor materialized and in 2009, the first 60 families could move into the first block of flats. Until two years ago, a total of 232 two-room-flats could be built plus a community hall and a playground and park area.
When instances of corruption occurred the board solved the problems with clear and strong leadership. This board had the confidence of donors and government officials. When some residents decided at one stage to abuse their privileges by refusing to pay their rent or by subletting their flats for 3-4 times the nominal rent, the majority of tenants kept doing their duties by paying the modest R 400 per month according to the contracts they once had signed eagerly and voluntarily.
Only when – after the last national elections in 2014 – certain party politics began to abuse “Amakhaya ngoku” as a battle ground, the project began to falter. Residents were intimidated not to pay rent, the elected board was chased violently from their office and the community hall was taken over by a so called interim board (whose members are renting the hall since then out for their own profit). No more proper community meetings of all beneficiaries were held anymore and democracy was replaced by fights and threats between competing groups and individuals. This was paralyzing any proper administration and the once beautiful “role model project” began to disintegrate – while communal bills not being paid whilst maintenance ceased and the decay of the flats began. As the project can’t be completed under these circumstances, another 120 recognized beneficiaries with their families are still waiting in shacks under dire conditions on the TRA.
As a former board member and volunteer fundraiser (from which I derived no benefit in any way whatsoever, but invested quite a number of personal resources) some tenants continue to tell me their sad stories about water leakages and blocked toilets. Above all – the promise once made (by government and the board) to tenants to get out of the poverty trap forever by attaining ownership through a title deed (based on a nominal rent paid for four years) can no longer be fulfilled due to the absence of proper administration and democratic leadership.
I am not part of “Amakhaya ngoku” any longer. But it does not diminish my passionate plea to all leaders inside and outside of Masi: To cooperate again as we did nine years ago – and to show leadership so urgently needed. Let’s not waste the many resources given: More than R 20 million public money and more than R 24 million private donations – and let’s not allow this housing project to be just another slum area soon ! And to the government officials: Do not use the errors and mistakes happening at Amakhaya ngoku as an excuse now to further delay the long-promised government housing project for the poor in Masi – called phase 4 (and the equally promised 2nd access road for the community as a condition for phase 4, even more essential in dealing with regular disasters in the wetlands informal area)!
For several months we hear that a “government survey on development” happens in Masi, but there is huge uncertainty what the practical outcome will be. Not even the Masi NGO Forum has been made part of it despite several requests to be at least properly informed. Please take also into account the very practical suggestions made via the appeal “Overcoming poverty in Masi” which was signed early in 2014 by more than 800 local leaders,activists and ordinary residents inside and outside of Masi. It can be done – with leadership and cooperation.
Dr Lutz van Dijk, Clovelly
See response by Councillor Felicity Purchase here: SKMBT_C55015082013250