City of Cape Town backtracks on housing agreement with Mfuleni backyarders

New housing development will not only be for the backyarders, says the City

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The City of Cape Town is preparing more than 500 serviced sites in Mfuleni, but some backyarders claim they have been excluded despite an agreement signed in 2014. Photo: Mary-Anne Gontsana

  • The City of Cape Town has started work on a new development in Mfuleni.
  • But backyarders in the area claim that the City has reneged on an agreement signed with them ten years ago.
  • The agreement, signed by former Mayco Member for Human Settlements, Malusi Booi, stated that qualifying backyarders would exclusively benefit from the project.
  • Now that the project to build more than 500 serviced sites is underway, the City says all eligible people will be considered, and not just the backyarders.

In 2014, the City of Cape Town signed an agreement with backyarders in Mfuleni’s Ward 108 that they would “exclusively” benefit from a new housing development.

Ten years later, as the development is finally being built, some backyarders claim they are being excluded from the project. The City is aware of the backyarders’ previous agreement but says its development will be open to all people on the waiting list, and who meet the qualifying criteria, not just the backyarders.

“I am heartbroken,” says Bardale resident Fundiswa Madlavu, who has not been informed that she would benefit from the project. “For years we have been up and down, attending meeting after meeting. It is absolutely devastating to be faced with the realisation that all of that was for nothing.”

She is one of the backyarders who believed they would benefit from the housing project named the Mfuleni Extension 1. She says she has been on the City’s housing waiting list since 2015.

Madlavu relies on piece jobs in the community to pay her R800 monthly rent and to buy food, but she struggles in the months when she doesn’t get enough work.

“I can barely afford rent every month because I don’t always get piece jobs,” says Madlavu.

The battle over the Mfuleni Extension 1 project dates back more than a decade. Backyarders in Ward 108 were annoyed when the City built Extension 2 housing project just opposite the Extension 1 site. This project, completed in 2017, was only meant to benefit people in Ward 16, not Ward 108. Following negotiations with the City at the time, it was agreed that the Ward 108 backyarders would be housed in the new development in Extension 1.

The memorandum of understanding (MOU), seen by GroundUp, states that the Mfuleni Extension 1 would include about 500 plots. “The opportunities in the development will be exclusively for the Ward 108 Mfuleni backyarders. The beneficiaries of the Extension 1 Development will be sourced from the Housing Database System which will accommodate Ward 108 Mfuleni backyarders.”

Members of the Mfuleni Backyarders Organisation (formerly known as the Mfuleni Development Forum) signed the MOU with former Mayco Member for Human Settlements, Malusi Booi.

Booi resigned as a DA councillor in November last year following corruption allegations, which Booi appears to have denied. According to media reports, Booi was suspended in March following a police raid at his offices in connection with an alleged fraud probe.

Backyarder and secretary of the Mfuleni Backyarders Organisation, Craig Matwa, said, “Since we took over in 2019 everything has been a mess. It has been difficult because all the doors we knock on for help have been unsuccessful.”

Despite several meetings with City management, the ward councillor and the rest of the community, very little has been resolved, said Matwa.

Mayco Member for Human Settlements Carl Pophaim told GroundUp that while the City is aware of the 2014 backyarders’ agreement, the City cannot change its housing policy. He emphasised that other people who are on the City’s database, and who meet the eligibility criteria may be housed at the new development, not only backyarders.

Pophaim said the new project is expected to have 526 serviced sites and will cost the City about R40-million. “The project is expected to be completed in 2025/26, if all goes according to plan,” he said.

We have sent the City more questions about why people like Madlavu were not chosen for this project. The City is yet to respond to our questions.

TOPICS:  Housing

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