“Dissident” families ordered to vacate

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Nineteen Clermont households have been ordered by the Durban High Court to vacate their homes to make way for a low-cost, high-density housing scheme that has cost taxpayers more than R7 million before construction has even started. Fred Kockott and Nompilo Kunene report

Ruling in favour of an urgent application brought by the eThekwini municipality, Judge Isaac Madondo said on Friday that although the 19 families had many concerns about relocating to a temporary transit camp, these had to be weighed against the needs of 1 481 other people who stood to benefit from the Emaphaleni housing project.

“Authorities have a constitutional obligation to provide housing, and for them to be impeded there must be strong reasons. It cannot be for flimsy reasons, and for the past three years the project has been put on hold by the recalcitrance of a few,” said Madondo.

“I find this unacceptable. They might not like the triple-storey units [of the planned housing development], but they will have accommodation that they own. If they want something better than that, they can look somewhere else or join the end of the queue [of housing applicants],” said Madondo.

On the families’ safety concerns, Madondo said he was satisfied that these would be addressed by eThekwini municipality providing additional security at the Lindela transit camp.

In recent weeks Clermont has become volatile, with families who are resisting relocation living under threat of attack from former neighbours who moved to the transit camp, some as far back as 2011, and people in neighbouring shack settlements listed as beneficiaries of the housing project.

Madondo rejected the arguments by the lawyer representing the families, Muzi Mzila, that the housing development had been badly planned and that inadequate consultation had taken place with prospective beneficiaries, including those still resisting temporary relocation.

Mzila asked that the eThekwini municipality be ordered to provide a comprehensive report on the housing project, including “meaningful and reasonable engagements” with the families resisting relocation, some of whom have lived on site for more than 20 years.

Rejecting Mzila’s motion, Madondo said that records already placed before the court showed that adequate consultation had taken place regarding the families’ needs, personal circumstances and rights to adequate housing. Madondo said consideration also needed to be given to other beneficiaries and the exorbitant costs being incurred through delays in construction.

Records show before the court show that eThekwini municipality was given more than R21.6 million in 2011 by the KwaZulu-Natal department of human settlements for the first phase of the Emaphaleni project on an old school site, now known as a Mhlabunzima Ridge.

Development was expected to proceed in February 2011, but never did because more than 60 families refused to relocate. This resulted in the municipality paying a cancellation fee of more R1 million to the first contractors, Structocon CC.

Then, in April 2014, another contractor, the Motheo Construction Group, was appointed, but with more than 20 families still living on the site, construction again ceased in early July, this time at a cost of R200 000 a day (R6 million a month).

Mzila said the municipality ought to have completed all discussions with the community, and brought the issue of residents refusing to relocate to court for a decision, before any costs had been incurred in engaging construction companies. This issue of alleged maladministration was not addressed in Madondo’s judgement.

Madondo gave the families 30 days to vacate their homes or face forced eviction.