Makhura announces programme to ease Joburg South land crisis

The Gauteng government has assured residents of Eldorado Park, Freedom Park and surrounding areas that they will receive land through a so-called “rapid land release” programme, which will allow them to own property with title deeds.

At a meeting held in Eldorado Park Stadium on Saturday, Gauteng Premier David Makhura told these communities he would attend to those feeling neglected when it comes to issues of housing and land.

“Everywhere I go I hear people say give us land we will build for ourselves, others say we want to buy the land but the price of the prime land is expensive in Gauteng” said Makhura.

He said he would be engaging all the mayors in Gauteng to expedite the process of rapid land release and noted that government cannot talk about land forever.

Also speaking at stadium, MEC Uhuru Moiloa pointed out that the communities had raised these grievances since May 2017.

“Today we are here to give feedback on how far we have come to obtaining the land earmarked for development,” he said.

“We are coming here to deliver the good news that we have acquired the land that will yield almost 60 000 housing units… We are waiting for the City of Johannesburg to transfer through the power of attorney so that the department can allocate resources.”

Human Settlements deputy director general Keith Khoza told the Mail & Guardian that the Gauteng government and the City had reached common ground on the power of attorney transfer.

Khoza said that Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba was initially reluctant to pursue the programme because of budgetary concerns, but at a meeting on Friday he was convinced otherwise. Spokesperson for the mayor Luyanda Mfeka said that he could not comment further.

But Mashaba said in a statement that the city met with Moiloa last Friday, where he reiterated the need for specific housing allocations to be made to the community backed by an appropriate budget. “Without this, it would not be possible to ensure that our most indignant communities have the dignity of safe housing,” he said.

“The unfortunate misrepresentation made by the premier, the city’s participation within the process is most unfortunate and can only serve to harm intergovernmental relations between the province and the city,” Mashaba added. “It is important to remind the premier that focus of our collective action needs to be around advancing the best interests of residents and not petty politicking.”

READ MORE: Eldorado Park was built on dreams, many of them shattered by government ineptitude

Moiloa said the mega development in the South of Johannesburg will include Eldorado Park, Freedom Park, Ennerdale, Finetown, Lawley, Kliptown and Soweto.

He said 30% of the cost of project must empower the local community, meaning that local skilled people should be given a chance to participate in the community development.

Member of the mayoral committee for housing, councillor Mzobanzi Ntuli said in a statement that plans are in place to develop the Southern Farm which will be a mixed development which will include RDP walk ups, bonded houses, social housing and Finance Linked Individual Subsidy Programme housing.

The rapid land release announcement comes after weeks of discord between the communities and local government on the issue of housing in the area.

On May 2, residents blocked roads with burning tyres and rubble in protest over service delivery issues. Some were arrested, while others were left injured after violent standoffs with the police.

Chairperson of the Greater Eldorado Park Civic Organisation Weizmann Hamilton told the M&G that he “can only remain sceptical” on the promises made by Makhura on attending to the housing crisis in the area.

Hamilton said that the community has been engaging local government on this issue for over a year and that he sees Makhura’s announcement as an example of how the Gauteng government has used the community’s discontent as “a political football”.

He added that promises on housing made by a government that has such a bad service delivery track record are a way of mitigating fears of electoral failure. Until now, the interest in the community has been nothing more than political grandstanding between the ANC and the Democratic Alliance, Hamilton said.

READ MORE: How solving the Eldorado Park housing crisis could keep a family safe

Last week Monday, when asked about the Eldorado Park protests, the DA’s Mashaba revealed to City Press newspaper how he nearly pulled out of a meeting he had been invited to by then minister of human settlements Lindiwe Sisulu and Gauteng province’s then MEC for co-operative governance Paul Mashatile because of how uneasy he was about lying to people by making promises that he could not keep.

“They expected me to be part of a meeting, making promises to the residents and I said to them: ‘Please, before we make promises, show me the money. You cannot expect me to go to this community and make empty promises,’” he said.

Makhura’s rapid land release announcement comes just days before a motion of no confidence in him is set to be debated. The Democratic Alliance tabled the motion — which will be heard on Tuesday — because it wants the Gauteng premier removed from office for his role in the Life Esidimeni tragedy.

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Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

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