Port Elizabeth – The illegal occupation of Nelson Mandela Bay RDP houses is out of control, with a preliminary audit revealing that as many as 30% of them could be illegally occupied.
The preliminary results of the audit, submitted to the Nelson Mandela Bay human settlements portfolio committee meeting on Thursday, has revealed a situation where in one area more than half of the houses audited were illegally occupied.
Of the 480 RDP houses audited in Ward 21, in Kwazakele, 255 were occupied by people who were not the registered beneficiaries.
In Ward 36, KwaDwesi, 189 of the 1 071 houses audited were not occupied by the rightful owners.
The municipality appointed four law firms last year to conduct the audit, with the aim of regularising the occupancy of the houses or evicting the illegal occupants, however the problem has been revealed to be much larger than anticipated.
Human settlements director Lindile Petuna told the meeting on Thursday that field workers had collected data in four wards so far, but only the audited results for Wards 21 and 36 were available, as the rest of the information was still in the process of being captured.
Petuna said it could take years to establish the full extent of the problem as budget constraints had resulted in them being unable to assess all the wards where RDP houses had been built.
According to the report, many of the houses identified as being illegally occupied required urgent legal resolutions.
Municipal officials allegedly paid facilitation fees
Democratic Alliance councillor for human settlements, Andrew Gibbon, said if the data presented was extrapolated and applied to the
44 000 RDP houses built by the Metro since 1995, some 13 200 RDP houses could be occupied illegally.
He said this shocking statistic pointed to a lack of effective controls, and that immediate action should be taken by metro officials to ensure that illegal occupancy of RDP houses did not take place.
“This particularly given the rumours that are rife among communities that a ‘facilitation fee’ of R6 000 will procure a R102 000 RDP house. Further allegations indicate that many of the illegal occupants have been placed in the RDP houses by municipal officials,” he said.
“Councillors are then left to face justifiably disgruntled housing beneficiaries who, when wishing to occupy their new home, are devastated to find that the house has already been occupied by an illegal occupant,” he said.
Gibbon said it should be easy to track the legal beneficiaries as they could only receive one subsidy.
“The subsidy is linked directly to the beneficiary and to the erf number on which the house is built. Consequently the subsidy records should indicate to whom the house should legally belong,” he said.
The human settlement report indicated that in some cases the house was occupied by family of the original owner, who had since died, but that in many cases the occupants could not provide proof of ownership, and in others two families were each claiming ownership of a house.
Resident fighting for home since 2002
In one case, a woman who is a legal beneficiary of an RDP house, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals, has been fighting a losing battle to gain occupancy of her house in Motherwell since 2002, even though she holds the legal property title deeds.
An investigation by the Bay’s human settlements directorate confirmed that the property had been illegally allocated by a previous municipal official.
The official has since resigned from the municipality, but no recourse has been provided to the woman, who is still living in a shack with her family.
This case is one of many where beneficiaries are unable to take rightful occupancy of their homes, because their homes have already been illegally occupied.