Gauteng MEC urges residents to only use courts as last resort

133 residents of Winnie Mandela informal settle seeking constitutional damages against Ekurhuleni Municipality

Gauteng MEC urges 133 Winnie Mandela residents to only use courts as last resort

7 August 2019

Gauteng Human Settlements, Urban Planning and Cogta MEC Lebogang Maile says he has noted that that 133 residents of Winnie Mandela informal settlement are seeking constitutional damages against the Ekurhuleni Municipality.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Maile urged residents to use the courts only as a last resort.

"Our people should raise their dissatisfaction with us first. This does not in any way suggest that they should not exercise their constitutional right to approach courts," Maile said.

On Monday, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) released a statement saying the residents were seeking constitutional damages of R5 000 per resident for every month from June 30, 2019," said Nomzamo Zondo, director of litigation at SERI and legal representative of the residents.

SERI reprimanded the municipality for what they called "delaying tactics" in awarding the group RDP houses.

According to SERI, the houses were fraudulently given away to unknown people.

"Instead of being given the houses built with their subsidies, the houses became occupied by other, unknown, people who were not entitled to the subsidies used to build them," Zondo said.

Maile said this was due to a large housing backlog.

"We have a housing backlog of more than two million in the country, and one million of that backlog is concentrated in Gauteng, owing to immigration and vast people flocking into the province from all over the continent in search of economic opportunities, since Gauteng bolsters one of the biggest economies.

"The provision of decent houses or human settlements are a deliberate programme of our government, seeking to restore the dignity of our people, as a result of the inhumane apartheid living conditions endured by our people from past system we inherited," Maile said.

Maile added they would meet with residents on the matter.

"We will be seeking an audience with all the affected parties, in order to find a common solution to this unfortunate crisis. The meeting will take place before the end of next week.

"The ANC-led provincial government is in the process of tackling the housing backlog in the province, in line with our electoral commitments and directives set-out by Premier [David] Makhura, as encapsulated in his State of the Province Address (SOPA).”

'Delaying tactics'

In 2017, the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg ordered the municipality to build new houses for the 133 residents by December 31 2018, after the misallocation of their rightful houses.

The municipality appealed this deadline and it was subsequently extended to June 30, 2019.

According to SERI, the municipality has asked for another extension.

"The residents have been deprived, by the municipality’s unlawful conduct, of land and houses for far too long. The municipality has a constitutional obligation to remedy this situation, and to compensate my clients until it does.

"The Winnie Mandela informal settlement residents still live in shacks, with no basic services," Zondo claimed.