Cape Argus: Sexwale puts eviction to Delft on hold

Sexwale puts eviction to Delft on hold
Joe Slovo residents ‘must be given time’

August 07, 2009 Edition 1

Andisiwe Makinana

HUMAN Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale has promised the residents of Joe Slovo informal settlement a reprieve, saying they will not be immediately removed from the area to Delft.

Sexwale, who visited a number of the city’s informal settlements yesterday, told a meeting of about 500 people in Joe Slovo that despite the Constitutional Court ruling in favour of the housing department to remove the residents to Delft so that the next phase of the N2 Gateway project could start, he will have the implementation of that judgment postponed.

He said that, while the government respected the court ruling, he had met President Jacob Zuma over the matter and discussed how “we can’t just move the people”.

“I said these are our people, we have to work with them.”

“You don’t come to people brandishing a judgment and saying move.”

Sexwale said he was not defying a court decision, but that his own decision was to say “hold on, but I cannot implement the ruling now. I’m not moving my people until I’ve worked with them”.

“We understand that you want to be close to your place of work. That’s not going to be easy, but it will have to be done,” he said to loud cheers from the crowd.

Late last night Sexwale was locked in a meeting with the community’s leaders to “further understand their problems, discuss details of how we do this thing and to get a proper buy-in”.

He was scheduled to meet Western Cape Premier Helen Zille, Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato and Housing MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela today to discuss the Joe Slovo matter.

Also on the agenda is the land that the DA alleges was illegally transferred to the Housing Development Agency by the ANC provincial government just before the April elections.

Sexwale told the Cape Argus that although the court had not set a date to evict people, it had put in place conditions for the process. One was that all stakeholders at local, provincial and national level engage to resolve the process of moving.

The Constitutional Court judgment which was delivered in June, underscored the necessity of meaningful engagement and the provision of alternative accommodation. It also directed the state to provide 70 percent of the low-cost housing to be built at Joe Slovo to former or current residents who have applied for – and qualify for – housing.

Sexwale said among the crucial issues that needed to be addressed (at his meeting with Zille and Plato) was determining who qualified to be in that 70 percent laid down by the court. Another was the residents’ request that when they move, the government should provide transport for their children who go to school in Langa and surrounding areas.

“We want to make this thing as humane and sensitive as possible,” he said, adding that the court ruling was an “activism judgment” and sensitive to the feelings and desires of the people.

He said the government wanted to correct its mistakes, and do the right thing.

Sexwale spent the whole day interacting with informal-settlement residents, from Langa to Gugulethu and Delft.

At each visit, he was bombarded with a barrage of complaints, ranging from long waiting lists to defects in government-provided houses, and corruption.

He said his was a genuine listening campaign and he would go back and report to the cabinet and to Parliament.

“As a minister responsible for spending public money, I have to see where the funds go,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sapa reports that City of Cape Town officials yesterday told Parliament that politicians had placed “intense pressure” on officials to build an “unrealistic” 22 000 houses for the troubled multibillion-rand N2 Gateway Project.

City manager Achmat Ebrahim said in a written reply to questions from Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts that municipal, provincial and national politicians involved in the project had ignored concerns raised by city officials.

“The N2GP was driven from a political level that ignored all protests from the administration,” Ebrahim said.

The aim of the project was to provide housing adjacent to the N2 Highway between Bhunga Avenue near Langa and Boys Town in Crossroads.

A report by the Auditor General found a number of irregularities in the project which, since its launch, had been dogged by protests and a series of court challenges over evictions from the informal settlements it was supposed to replace.

Committee chairman Themba Godi said it was clear that decisions about the project had been made at a political level.