Durban – Residents of an upmarket uMlazi suburb have opposed the construction of low-cost houses in the area, saying the development will depreciate property values and lead to many social ills in the middle-class neighbourhood.
Since March, the residents of section-W have been protesting and vandalising already built eThekwini Municipality low-cost houses.
About 200 more houses still need to be built in the space, which the community has earmarked for a clinic, children’s park and recreation centre.
Local councillor Amon Dladla on Thursday accused the residents of being “elitist” for refusing to be associated with the poor in order to protect the value of their properties.
Fearing the worst, the city has brought heavily armed security guards to protect the new houses.
Eugene Gwala, who is opposing the development, sustained a rubber bullet wound during the protest last week, while another man, Kwanele Mnyandu, 23, was shot and killed during a fracas with private guards.
“Those houses do not have toilets inside, and we have been told that they will be provided with mobile toilets. Comparing them with our expensive homes, these houses are no better than shacks,” said Gwala.
Gwajo Radebe of the Young Communist League of SA accused the municipality of having constructed the houses despite opposition from residents.
He said the community had made it clear to the previous councillor that the land should be used for community upliftment facilities. “We wanted facilities that would bring value to our homes, and encourage young people to take part in sport,” Radebe said.
Residents have also expressed fears that their “crime-free” area would soon be over-run by criminals once the new houses were occupied.
“Those people will bring crime because they are coming from informal settlements that were destroyed by storms. They should have been sent to Cornubia (low-cost flats in the north of Durban). Why bring them here?” Radebe asked.
He accused Dladla of having given the go-ahead for the low-cost houses.
Dladla said several community meetings had been held, where locals were vehemently opposed to the low-cost houses.
He said the beneficiaries of the houses were currently homeless and living in local halls and churches following damage to their houses.
“Research does not indicate that low-cost houses drop the value of the area they are in. These people have developed a class society culture, which is unknown among black communities but common among rich white people,” said Dladla.
University of KwaZulu-Natal School of Social Sciences Professor Sagie Narsiah said research had shown that black middle-class people in townships had developed an awareness of the value of their properties.
“This is more of a class issue because those people have been living in the township for a long time and have established themselves.”
“There is a sense that their security might be affected as a result of stigmatisation of poor black people as criminals,” said Narsiah.
Mayor Zandile Gumede’s spokesperson, Mthunzi Gumede, said: “The Mayor is aware of the situation in uMlazi W Section, but we will only give a comprehensive response once we have all the facts relating to it.”
“However, we are committed to ensuring that the people of uMlazi, and other areas, receive houses; this is the reason we announced our plans of building about 14 700 units and acquiring of 300 hectare of land, to build more houses.”