Outcry over plan to move DV residents 25km away

Residents want to know why Buffalo City Metro chose to relocate people 25km away when land closer to Duncan Village is available for this purpose.
Residents want to know why  Buffalo City Metro chose to relocate people 25km away when land  closer to Duncan Village is available for this purpose. 
Image: FILE

The R200m Duncan Village de-densification project has already hit a speed bump as defiant residents set to be relocated to temporary structures near Mdantsane and Egoli say they cannot afford the daily transport costs to and from East London and want to be subsidised. 

They want to know why  Buffalo City Metro chose to relocate people 25km away when land  closer to Duncan Village is available for this purpose. 

“We have been here for years. Moving away from this land is forced removal. It is not a good plan to temporarily move us to Mdantsane while we have plenty of empty land around here which can be developed,” Duncan Village resident Monde Mahlangabeza told the Dispatch this week.

Unemployed Sinoxolo Mawe, who completed matric in 2017, said she was willing to move only if BCM subsidised transport costs.

The problem here is that we have to have enough money to sustain ourselves. We will be staying in areas where there are no shops ... this is going to be costly for us. BCM should provide us their buses, making it cheaper for us to travel,” she said.

Human settlements, water & sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu signed off on an urban settlement development grant framework in March, with the specific condition that BCM uses the funds to construct a low-density Duncan Village.

The aim in the short term is to help fight the spread of Covid-19, but de-densify the township in the long term.

It was initially believed that residents would be relocated to sites near Duncan Village, but that no longer appears to be the case.

And to land, rural development and agricultural planning consultant Mike Coleman, it simply does not make sense.

"BCM officials know what is happening and they have plans, but decisions are taken by the council and that frustrates the officials. It does not make sense to move people 25km away from the place where they have been living," he said.

"Duncan Village people have been there for 80 years and now you move them? There's land available not far from town where houses could be built for them." 

Coleman saw the same situation play out with Orange Grove residents, who were to be moved to Boxwood, also 25km away.

These residents, who walked to work, are now  paying R1,200 a month for taxi fare. Who is taking these decisions, who is getting the money?

 "Supposedly because no land was available within the metro's urban edge, a farm was bought for a sum of R3.4 million. No record of the Orange Grove community opinion on the proposal is evident. These residents, who walked to work, are now  paying R1,200 a month for taxi fare. Who is taking these decisions, who is getting the money? There's land available near East London airport. If BCM was serious, they could have bought that land for Orange Grove residents."

He said that all municipalities had the power to expropriate.

"They negotiate with the owner and if he or she is stubborn they have the power to take the land and pay the person if that is in the public interest and people want land to build houses."

The de-densification project is to occur in phases.

Residents from C section, D section and Bebelele are expected to move into  structures close to Mtsotso Cemetery near Mdantsane, while other temporary structures will be built near Egoli, along the Ziphunzana Bypass road.

BCM spokesperson Sam Ngwenya said the temporary structure project at Mtsotso was implemented by the Housing Development Agency, which falls under the national department of human settlements.

The estimated cost for the project, which includes construction of top structures, temporary relocation units and associated engineering services is R206m.

The agency is erecting 1,174 temporary structures to assist with the de-densification of Duncan Village. The project will have group ablution facilities and engineering services,” said Ngwenya.

Block clearance would be undertaken for C section and D section areas, with phase 1 comprising 2,000 temporary units for Ziphunzana Bypass, he said.

An additional 335 units will be installed for those who have been evicted from the Fynbos area while disaster-affected areas will also be included.

Another housing development in Reeston has already been held up by a court wrangle between BCM and Asla Construction, appointed as “an implementing agent” to address housing needs in Duncan Village, but the matter has since been resolved. 

Asla’s responsibilities included project management, geotechnical investigation and environmental effect assessment.

Displaced residents will move out of the temporary structures into permanent homes at a later stage.  

Ngwenya said 1,579 would be built in the Reeston housing project, and these would be allocated to Duncan Village beneficiaries.

The Dispatch visited the Reeston site this week, and found many foundations had already been completed. 

While Duncan Village residents spoken to by DispatchLIVE say the relocation will make their lives even harder, ward councillor Ntombizandile Mhlola has a different spin.

Mhlola said some of the residents had been on housing waiting lists since the 2000s.

“We have people who have been in these lists for far too long. We have been trying to do our best to find land to relocate them to better structures and this is what we are doing,” said Mhlola.

She said backyard dwellers would also benefit.

“This housing backlog is being addressed and we are happy to say that those structures in Reeston are built after a court fight between Asla Construction and BCM was finalised. Finally people will be able to have houses,” said Mhlola. - DispatchLIVE


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