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Tuesday Jun 03, 2014

eThekwini to expropriate private land for housing

A plan by the eThekwini Municipality to expropriate thousands of hectares of privately owned land to build low-cost housing settlements is likely to be fought by some landowners.

Shack dwellers, however, say the plan has been a long time coming and the municipality must keep its promises to them. And they don't want only two-bedroom houses.

In a provincial government gazette, published on May 20, the municipality said the land in Springfield, Verulam and Inanda was being expropriated for a 'national housing programme' and permission had been obtained from the Human Settlements MEC, Ravi Pillay, in March.

The gazette said the land was being expropriated because the municipality had been unable to buy it through negotiations with owners. The expropriation date was April 25 but owners had 60 days to lodge objections and to hand the title deeds to the city.

The housing settlements will be at the Jadhu Place project, which is being built on land invaded by shack dwellers in Springfield, the 'Stop 8' Namibia project near Ntuzuma, the Amaoti Moscow and Cottonlands projects in Verulam and the Afrika Inanda project.

The executor for one of the pieces of land marked for expropriation in Springfield said they were taking the legal route to stop the expropriation.

'The amount that the municipality is offering us is ridiculous,' he said.

Springfield landowner Percimoney Karimbyram, 74, who will lose ownership of two vacant plots of land alongside his house, said he was 'frustrated'.

'We have been here since the 1960s so I am not eager to sell. My family worked hard to buy this land and those two plots were supposed to go to family to develop.'

However, if the municipality was going to expropriate the plots, Karimbyram said it may as well expropriate all his land, including that on which his house was built. But it refused.

'It would be better if they would do that because then I can leave here. have tried to sell since the shack dwellers invaded but could not get a good price. They built their shacks and we had to accept it.'

Already a lavish home in Jadhu Place, alongside the informal settlement, has been abandoned. Some items remain inside. Bhekani Sithole, a shack dweller who has been living in the settlement for about 25 years, said the owners did not want to live next to them.

'We have been waiting for 20 years. Since 1994 they have promised to build us houses here,' said Sithole. 'They took our names and everything,' he said.

Another resident, Siyabonga Ncebisa, said the houses needed to be four or five bedrooms as they were living with up to 10 people per house.

'We are like fish in a tin', he said.

Municipal spokesman Tozi Mthethwa said the intention in all in-situ upgrades was to formally accommodate the people living in the earmarked areas, but that this could only be done once all detailed studies, including environmental impact assessments, were concluded.

'These studies will indicate how many units can be built on the site and how many residents will need to be relocated. Beneficiaries must be eligible for government subsidies to qualify for the formal units.'

Mthethwa declined to comment on the cost and size of the housing projects.

'Housing studies are not usually shared with the public as it could raise expectations in communities affected by the proposed developments. Cost estimates are informed by technical requirements of the projects, which vary.'

She said these projects were chosen as they fitted into the city's spatial development plans and that the municipality was attending to valid objections.

'The process, now that the notices of expropriation have been published in the government gazette, is to note the expropriation notice against the title deed. Thereafter, a new valuation of the property will be undertaken, a compensation agreement would be prepared and the property transferred to the municipality.'

She said there were 'no time frames' for finalising the process of expropriation.

The Mercury


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