Pretoria march against evictions

in support of Schubart/Kruger Park Residents

Tuesday 15 July 2008 by Ahmed

The residents of Schubart Park/Kruger Park will be marching on the 16th July 2008 at 11h00 am to the Office of Gwen Ramokgopa in Pretoria (corner Vermuelen and Van Der Walt Street) to deliver a memorandum of grievances around the intended evictions from their flat in Schubart street. Thousands of the residents will be gathering at the Schubart street complex at 08h00 and the march will proceed at 11h00.

The City of Tshwane has negotiated with the residents in bad faith. Tshwane mayor Gwen Ramokgopa visited the complex in a public relations exercise that was staged by the city council. The residents had applied to march to her on the 2nd July 2008 but Tshwane Metropolice didn’t permit the march because the Tshwane council were not available to receive their memorandum. It was agreed to postpone the march to 17 July 2008. In the interim, the Mayor visited the area to pre-empt the march and make appearances that she had taken steps to resolve the community’s grievances. Yet, she failed to answer past representations made to her as mayor by the residents.

The residents consulted the City on numerous occasions to deal with the building that the city now describes as in ‘a serious state of despair’. The complex was build by the former apartheid government of the National Party to house poor white residents who were paying low rentals (R350 - R450). When the African National Congress government took over in 1994, many black residents moved into the complex. But with the adoption of the neo-liberal GEAR policy in 1996, the municipality changed its approach to the delivery of housing by forming state-owned private utilities. The buildings were thereafter owned by the Section 21 company, Tshwane Housing Company, and immediately the rentals went up by almost 100%.

Despite the ANC promising to fight the housing backlog in the country with its RDP policy and provide poor south Africans with low cost housing, many of the poor residents were slowly pushed out of the Schubart street complex. The City then neglected the building for many years without any renovations being done. As rates became more unaffordable and residents fell into arrears, the City of Tshwane then decided to disconnect water and electricity from defaulters. The buildings’ disrepair and residents’ arrears are conditions created by the City and the Tshwane housing company and the reasons the City is now giving for evicting many of the poor residents from the building.

On receiving notices of eviction, the residents then went to the City of Tshwane and the Housing Department to try resolve the matter. Their efforts were undermined by the two departments, however, the Tshwane Housing Company officials choosing to insult many community members in meetings and refusing to listen to the people’s grievances about rentals and the maintenance of the building. The government through the City of Tshwane has the obligation to deliver houses to the people and many of the residents qualify for a housing subsidy. They should be given the title deeds of the flats as they can’t be tenants forever in a country that is faced with a housing crisis. The government must give the flats over to the residents for ownership and for their own security. If the government is committed to delivering housing, then the City of Tshwane cannot seek only the eviction of residents. Its obligation is to give residents houses.



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