Ground Up, a social justice group that focuses on stories affecting vulnerable communities, has shone a light on the murky workings of a housing project in Gauteng initiated by President Jacob Zuma.
According to the group, residents of Thulamntwana, near Orange Farm, had paid R25 000 to secure housing in the township, only to discover that the units had been sold to others. The residents interviewed by Ground Up said that they had been fighting the last four years to get either their houses or their money back, but with no luck.
The project came about when President Jacob Zuma visited the area in 2010 and was appalled by the conditions residents were subjected to. A task team consisting of national, provincial and City of Joburg officials was formed to speed up the housing allocation process. In 2014, the Gauteng human settlements department report uncovered that the project, intended for Sweetwaters, had been relocated to Thulamntwana. The report also showed that recipients were not residents of either settlement. They were from outside the area.
The report explained that “there are letters illegally issued on a letterhead of Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Council recognising the ‘Bearers’ as residents to be relocated to the Thulamntwana Housing Development, purporting to be from the targeted informal settlements”. These letters gave the impression that the bearers would be relocated to Thulamntwana.
Residents have also said that speaking out about the situation had disastrous consequences, alleging kidnapping and arson amongst others.
King Sibiya, who heads up the Lungelu Letho Human Rights Foundation, says that the stories coming out of Sweetwaters and Thulamntwana are characteristic of what is going on across Gauteng. He says that “In Sweetwaters and Thulamntwana, we have evidence of cases of corrupt officials preying on the poorest people in the country. The rights of these poor people to housing have been trashed.”
Read the full report here.