PLETTENBERG BAY NEWS - Disappointment reigned in Plettenberg Bay on Sunday when a meeting to provide clarity on ongoing housing issues turned into a no-show from the powers that be.
Western Cape MEC of human settlements Tertuis Simmers visited the town on 6 October to set the record straight after what he described in a statement on Friday 4 October as "various misrepresentations" over housings issues in Bitou's New Horizons and Qolweni communities.
The meeting had been set up by the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), and Simmers on Friday confirmed he would be at the meeting, which was also to be attended by the leadership of the New Horizons and Qolweni communities and representatives of Bitou Municipality. In the statement, Simmers said "various misrepresentations" had been made by Bitou mayor Peter Lobese to the SAHRC and broader community.
On Sunday, Simmers expressed his disappointment with the SAHRC and the municipality's executive when they did not show up for the meeting.
"I commend the community leadership of New Horizon and Qolweni for their presence and engagement," Simmers said.
With the aim of clarity, the MEC explained that money for the erection of temporary residential units (TRAs) to the tune of R3-million was never allocated as it was part of a draft business plan by the municipality that had not been adopted.
"The erection of 400 TRAs on the Ebenezer site is not on the plan. In excess of 1 470 opportunities are planned for the Ebenezer site, where assessment impacts were completed by 30 September 2019. I'd like to request the Bitou council to discuss and approve the construction plans, as we want to start with construction by February 2020," Simmers said.
His department would construct 36 houses in Qolweni/Bossiesgif, he said, on what is known as the Minnaar land at a cost of R5.5-million. "Official communication will be sent to the municipality on Monday,
7 October 2019. These houses, which were requested by Bitou Municipality, must be completed by 31 March 2020."
20 years coming
The area's residents have been lobbying unsuccessfully for housing in New Horizons for more than two decades, a situation that in the past year erupted into a series of violent protests that brought the town to a near standstill.
The community's biggest grievance is that over the past 15 years, government has built 3 000 RDP houses in Bitou, of which New Horizons received only 64 units. While not an informal settlement, the area's backyard dwellers amount to about 950.
In October last year, the municipality acquired a portion of land in Ebenezer, earmarked for about 1 500 sites for the construction of housing and infrastructure development, but residents have since expressed their concern over the lack of progress in this regard.
The MEC said his department is working on a housing project for the Ebenezer land that would include 1 194 units. The project is scheduled to start in April next year until 2024.
Community leader Claude Terblanche said residents are very disappointed that the municipality did not attend the meeting. "It did not go down well with the leadership," he said.
Both the SAHRC and municipality had not responded to queries before going to print.
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