Stellenbosch shack fire survivors have expressed anxiety about the involvement of the ANC dominated Kayamandi Development Forum (KDF) in their new government housing development project.
The 2013 fire, caused by a candle, left three residents dead and at least 1,500 homeless (other estimates range up to 4,000). The new houses are earmarked for victims of the fire but residents fear that others, not affected by the fire, may also benefit from the project.
The KDF was formed last year as a forum for local political organisations to work closely on development issues. However it has been marked by in-fighting. The Stellenbosch Civic Association (SCA) pulled out of the forum because they felt the structure was being monopolised by the ANC.
A venture approved by the Stellenbosch municipality and the Western Cape Human Settlement Department earlier this year, involves upgrading of Zone O informal settlement in Kayamandi. The shack fire survivors are demanding that the municipality remove the KDF from involvement in the venture as they are not working with residents in the area.
More than two hundred protesting fire victims marched and then handed over their list of grievances to Conrad Sidego, the Stellenbosch Executive Mayor on 16 May.
They demanded the municipality’s response in seven days time and vowed to make the area ungovernable if they were not answered. The residents criticised KDF as a platform for ANC in-fighting and an irrelevant community structure led by politicians who were unfamiliar with basic development processes.
“It is just a body of few individuals who lack transparency and they pull everything backwards. The government should really help to stop the ongoing chaos by removing KDF,” said Aubrey Mafunga (49). Other residents urged the process to be sped up to avoid further shack-fires.
Midas Wanana, the Ward 14 proportional representative councillor and the chairperson of the SCA, the organisation that led the march, said his organisation was concerned that the KDF’s continued involvement in the initiative might soon escalate to the mismanagement of the developmental funds. He said, “KDF recently opposed the government process and delaying the development. They also politicise everything and we fear that this might result in fraudulent activities including their friends’ employment.”
Wanana said that the KDF could possibly control the lists of the new residents for the houses. He claimed that the KDF could also bring in people from other areas such as Strand and place them in the new houses which are meant for victims of the fire.
But Phelisa Sitshoti, an ANC councillor for Ward 14 accused Wanana of misleading residents to become the first to benefit from the venture. “We as KDF and residents agreed that all Zone O sections should benefit people regardless of the district you are situated in. It is just that Wanana misleads residents because he aims to get the work to begin in the district where he resides.”
The municipality has responded to the fire victims’ calls and a public meeting is to take place this evening to elect residents to monitor the housing allocation process. These residents will ensure that it is only victims of the fire who benefit from the houses.
Mayor Sidego criticised community politics for complicating service delivery and promised to investigate the matter.
Source : GroundUp