Former Schubart Park residents unhappy with rehousing schedule

A file photo of Frank Chikane, former director general in the presidency, who is the facilitator of the negotiations between Tshwane and the displaced residents. (Madelene Cronje)

A file photo of Frank Chikane, former director general in the presidency, who is the facilitator of the negotiations between Tshwane and the displaced residents. (Madelene Cronje)

Displaced residents of the Schubart Park flats in Pretoria central say they are unhappy with the rate at which the City of Tshwane is relocating them following a Constitutional Court order.

On Monday Albert Mashimbye, chairman of the Schubart Park Residential Committee, said some people who were forcibly moved from the dilapidated complex were still out in the cold.

"The timeframe is the major problem – we are not happy. One person who is not allocated [alternative accommodation] is one person too many," said Mashimbye.

"However, we are still positive that through the engagements that we are having with the city, our people are still going to be accommodated. There is no signal which gives us doubt."

Facilitator of the negotiations between Tshwane and the displaced residents, Frank Chikane, told a joint media briefing that significant progress had been made in finding alternative shelter.

"The process of negotiations between the city and the erstwhile residents of Schubart Park has progressed to the point where 388 of the families have been provided with alternative accommodation."

Chikane said 69 more families were awaiting the allocation of new housing.

"The 69 families who have been verified [as genuine former residents] await alternative accommodation and the process of vetting persons who claim to have lived in Schubart Park buildings in September 2011 continues," he said.

"As the vetting process continues, this number will be increased and allocations [of accommodation] will take place on a rolling basis."

He said the Schubart Park buildings would be refurbished in terms of designs that would adapt the structures into "a modern day mixed development precinct" including both social housing and rental stock to cater for the returning residents.

City manager Jason Ngobeni said through a partnership with a private sector property developer, the complex would be revamped over two years at a cost of around R1 billion.

"We entered a development agreement with a developer. Our requirement to the developer was that they have to accommodate the Schubart Park residents in a mixed residence community," he said.

"They [the developers] have to make it work. We have agreed with the residents that the people who are not disputed, on both the list of the residents and the list of the city, will definitely get accommodation. After the refurbishment, the private developer would commercially operate the complex and would hand it back to the municipality after 40 years," he said.

​Ngobeni said Schubart Park renovations fell within the ambit of the city's vision to revitalise the Pretoria inner city.

The returning residents would pay for their accommodation and other services.

Following a drawn-out court battle, the Constitutional Court ruled last year that Tshwane had removed the residents illegally.

The court ordered the city and the residents to "engage meaningfully with one another and to report to the high court on their progress".

The city was ordered to provide the residents with alternative accommodation in the meantime.

In the court battle, the city, as the owner of the buildings, argued that the complex was an unsafe living environment, an opinion that was based on expert advice.

The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of SA (SERI) also entered the legal battle as a friend of the court.

SERI argued the removal of the residents was unlawful and the city had not provided enough alternative accommodation.

The Constitutional Court's 2012 ruling also set aside earlier orders of the high court, given in September 2011, and that of the Supreme Court of Appeal.

After the September 2011 evictions, the residents unsuccessfully approached the High Court in Pretoria seeking an urgent court order against the city.

The order would have allowed them to re-occupy the complex.

The court dismissed their application, but ordered the municipality to offer alternative accommodation. – Sapa

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