Allegations made against councillor before Fynbos blew up

Police use teargas to disperse a crowd after tensions over housing reached boiling point at Fynbos.
Police use teargas to disperse a crowd after tensions over housing reached boiling point at Fynbos.

A meeting between Buffalo City chief whip Mawethu Marata and a representative for Fynbos community members shows that grievances about Ward 10 councillor Roseline Vitbooi were already fuelling tensions that boiled over into violent clashes in the area this week.

Minutes of the meeting on October 18, which DispatchLIVE has seen, contain allegations that Vitbooi was given money in exchange for houses which had already been allocated to housing beneficiaries, and that she had not provided the community with feedback on the ongoing eviction court order.

It is further alleged that Vitbooi had made racial slurs against the coloured community, calling them amalawu [derogatory use of the term coloured in isiXhosa] on numerous occasions.  

The allegations were made by Dr George Herman, who runs Agnieszka’s Haven, a Western Cape-based non-profit organisation that assists impoverished communities overcome social challenges.

The Dispatch made several attempts to get comment from Vitbooi from Thursday until the time of writing on Friday.

Her phone was not answered, and an e-mail was not responded to. SMS messages also received no response.

Fynbos  exploded into chaos on Tuesday night, with people illegally occupying homes in an RDP housing project clashing with others claiming to be the rightful owners of the properties.

About 20 homes were torched and rival groups armed with pangas, baseball bats, hockey sticks and sticks encrusted with nails threatened one another.

The minutes of the October 18 meeting reflect that Herman brought up an incident where he arranged representatives from Rhodes University to speak to local matriculants.

“Then Cllr Vitbooi made racial comments about how only the black matriculants must benefit.

“She made comments that in the duration of her term, only blacks would receive houses and not amalawu,” the minutes say.

Another portion reads: “He [Herman] raised the issue of illegal house invasions where there [were] also fraudulent activities where allegedly the Cllr was given money in exchange for houses which had already been allocated to beneficiaries, where people from other towns, including 19-year-olds were receiving houses, while the rightful beneficiaries aren’t catered for in terms of houses.”

The minutes show that Marata said he had only recently been appointed chief whip and it was the first time he had heard about these matters.

Vitbooi was not present at the meeting, but Marata said he would relay all the information to her and another meeting would be arranged a week later.

He would also ensure that Vitbooi apologised to the community, the minutes say.

But Herman told the Dispatch the meeting a week later on October 25, at which Vitbooi was present, did not yield the required results.

He said Vitbooi denied the allegations against her, but said she would work with the community. However, nothing has happened since.

Olga O'Neill, of the ward 10 subcommittee, said she had appealed to the BCM mayor about the “unfair allocation of housing” as far back as March 2018.

“We asked for 50% of the housing to go to coloured people, but that fell on deaf ears,” she said.

Another subcommittee member, Marjorie Gennette, said: “There was a woman I asked about her house, and she said she paid R40,000 for it.

“She told me she paid someone in the municipality’s housing committee and the councillor [Vitbooi].”

BCM spokesperson Samkelo Ngwenya said: “The councillor would be best placed to set the record straight on such allegations. I am worried, though, about said minutes that do not have a recording as they are open to manipulation and interpretation.

“The institution has a committee set up to deal with councillors conduct and behaviour, and such allegations are best placed and reported in that structure to be tested, rather than in a public gallery court like the media.

“The institution and the SA government do not use colour to render services, be it rebates, free services like water and electricity on indigents, social grants, so it would be very odd that when it comes to housing, we go against the country’s values and norms.

“Our beneficiary list is transparent and, in fact, we are in the process of vetting and verifying all those that were part of illegal invaders so that we can categorise their status when it comes to prioritisation.”      

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