PLETTENBERG BAY NEWS - New Horizons residents' patience is running thin six months after the conclusion of a land deal, earmarked for development for this Plettenberg Bay community, which they claim has seen no progress.
The last straw came last week when residents were told that land in Ward 4 will now be used as a transit camp to accommodate residents from another community while the municipality commences with a housing project in Qolweni and Bossiesgif.
"You can't blame people for getting upset. They have been waiting for 23 years for housing… and now they learn the municipality plans to move residents from another community into New Horizons while they get houses," said New Horizons Concerned Citizens Forum spokesperson Claude Terblanche.
Lobbying for 2 decades
These residents have been lobbying for housing for more than two decades, which ultimately boiled over in protest action last year.
Along with other communities, locals participated in violent riots in June and July last year, which brought the town to a near standstill.
Over the past week, protests have ignited yet again after a meeting with municipal officials on 18 April, which has been dubbed unsuccessful by locals.
Terblanche said residents handed over a petition against the transit camp, signed by more than 1 000 residents, to municipal officials at the meeting.
"We have since sent letters to the municipality to raise our concerns, but have not had any feedback, not even acknowledgment of receipt. We also requested mayor Peter Lobese to attend the meeting, but he did not show up."
'No proper public participation process'
He added that the transit camp decision was made without a proper public participation process.
Terblanche said despite New Horizons being part of the integrated development plan (IDP) for housing for the past 10 years, the community has not been part of the town's housing budget. For the 2019/20 financial year, R28-million has been set aside for housing in Kwanokuthula and R3-million for Qolweni.
Nothing has been budgeted for New Horizons.
In terms of services, R3-million has been earmarked for Qolweni and a further R3-million for Kurland. In this regard, nothing has been allocated for New Horizons.
"The residents in Ward 4 have been the most patient community and have always respected municipal laws and the system. Over the past 23 years, New Horizons has only received 62 units in Pinetrees/Gaatjie."
'Only 62 houses in 15 years'
Over the past 15 years the municipality has built 3 000 reconstruction and development programme (RDP) houses, of which New Horizons received only the 62 in 2016. Kwanokhutula alone has received about 1 500. "One wonders what the reasons could be that the municipality has not seen it fit to at least put a short-term housing plan in action for our community. New Horizons has a backlog of close to a thousand backyard dwellers and no informal settlement or squatter camp."
This comes despite the acquisition of a portion of land in Ebenezer in October last year. The land has been earmarked for about 1 500 sites for the construction of housing and infrastructure development.
Terblanche said another site, Portion 20 in Ebenezer, was also purchased in 2016 already and no development had taken place there since.
'We need a symbol of good faith'
He believes the reason for excluding New Horizons from development projects has something to do with the fact that the community has no informal settlement – unlike the areas receiving housing.
"The problem in New Horizons is that we have a large percentage of what is known as backyard dwellers. There are about 980 of them.
"We understand the development process and that it takes time, but the municipality should do something for the New Horizons community to show them that they have not been forgotten."
Terblanche said many residents suffer in terms of electricity and water bills due to backyard dwellers occupying their properties. "If the municipality can't provide housing right now, it can reduce these people's accounts in the meantime – a symbol of good faith."
The municipality was contacted a week ago for input on these issues but has not responded before going to print.
'We bring you the latest Plettenberg Bay, Garden Route news'