Political manoeuvring or housing problem?

NORTHAM – A housing dilemma in Northam has turned ugly recently when the police were called in to remove squatters from Extension 12 in Northam with rubber bullets on August 7th.

On the one hand occupants of Ext 12 claim that they have received papers to RDP houses in Extension 7, but before occupying their house, Amandelbult employees moved into the house.

Because the case has not been resolved by the Municipality since 2004, the rightful owners of the RDP houses started squatting in Ext 12 and 13. However, after fruitless meetings with the municipality and public meetings, in which they were warned to evacuate the area, the police tried to remove squatters with rubber bullets.

Steven, one of the occupants in this area, was shot on the forearm by these huge rubber bullets, and had to go to the clinic to get it looked after.
Evodia Hlalele, councillor for Northam, says that the whole problem is not just about the houses, but about individuals trying to gain political power with next year’s local elections in view.

According to Hlalele a section of Ext 12 belongs to Northam Platinum Mine and a section to the Municipality. When the necessary paperwork is finished the Municipality will start putting in services and sell plots. Presently, the squatting is illegal, because no provision has been made for water, sanitation or electricity. Shortly the squatters will start demanding that these services be installed, says Hlalele.

According to her the occupants of Ext 12 were repeatedly warned that they will be evacuated, but did not heed the municipality’s warnings. Many of the leaders in Ext 12 have houses in other areas, such as Ext 5, but are using the housing situation for political gain.

The squatters have been organized by wealthy members of the community to occupy the land, taking money from squatters in return for the assurance that they will be protected against eviction, says Hlalele. Many people living there do not have valid ID’s, are working in South Africa illegally or are sought by the police.

Currently the Municipality has taken its recourse to the law. A high court ruling is awaited in order for illegal occupants of RDP houses in Ext 7 to be removed. A court ruling has also given the Municipality the right to have squatters removed from Ext 12.

Amandelbult has also been consulted regarding certain employees illegally occupying RDP houses, but required proof of this. How does one prove that somebody is illegally occupying a house, asks Hlalele.

According to Hlalele, the whole housing problem has cost the Municipality a lot of money in legal fees and that they hope it will be resolved soon.

Hennie Pauw