Cape Argus: Backyard dwellers demand change

Backyard dwellers demand change

August 11 2009 at 01:18PM

By Francis Hweshe

Angry backyard dwellers in Khayelitsha’s Mandela Park – who burnt tyres in the streets of their neighbourhood – have given the provincial housing department a week to address their concerns or they will illegally occupy empty housing units in the area.

The residents, who protested there on Monday as police and private security guards kept a close watch, say they are at their wits’ end and want action now.

Their leader, Loyiso Mfuku, said the residents had previously written to the department about their issues, but had received no response.

And he said that if the department did not resolve their grievances soon, they would illegally occupy the 53 empty units in their community.
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The backyarders said they were “fed up” with their ANC ward councillor, Ryder Mkutswana, who they accused of failing them on service delivery.

During their protest on Monday, the backyard dwellers charged that Mkutswana and SA National Civics Organisation leaders in the area were “parcelling out” or selling unoccupied RDP houses to their “friends, relatives and girlfriends”.

“The registration process for the houses is shady. They (leaders) are giving their friends and girlfriends first preference when filling out forms for the houses,” one protester alleged.

Another said: “We want a fresh councillor. We are fed up with Mkutswana. He is not concerned about us. There is no development in our area.

“We are sick and tired of fraud and corruption.”

Yet another, showing off alleged receipts, complained of having bought an RDP house for R1 500 from a then community leader in 2006, which, he said, he had never received.

“I want my money back,” he complained, alleging that the seller was now working in the provincial housing department.

The residents also expressed unhappiness over “outsiders from Gugulethu and Site C” getting “first preference” in the allocation of housing units in Mandela Park, “while we are getting nothing”.

“Our children should occupy these houses,” said a mother of three, a backyarder there for about 20 years.

The residents dispersed only after government official Mbongi Gubuza, from the housing department, addressed them briefly.

He said Housing MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela was scheduled to address them next Sunday.

Meanwhile, Mkutswana denied any wrongdoing, saying that those who alleged that he was corrupt should “bring the proof”.

He was “hands on” in his constituency, he said, and the “issue of backyarders is at the top of my list”. He said he would ensure that local backyarders were catered for when the empty units were handed to their new occupants.

Mkutswana alleged that there was “someone” behind the protest, accusing the residents of “toyi-toying because they see these things on TV”.

o This article was originally published on page 4 of Cape Argus on August 11, 2009