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East informal settlement issue is “years from being solved”

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It may take the Tshwane metro “years” to remove about 200 Erasmuskloof informal settlement dwellers after it has lost a court bid to have them removed.

This was revealed during a community meeting held at the Erasmuskloof old fire station in which Tshwane officials updated residents on the progress made in their attempts to evict people from the Wolwespruit informal settlement.

This settlement, situated on a piece of land on the corner of Delmas Road and Solomon Mahlangu Drive, formed in 2018 when a few homeless people set up camp close to the wetland.

It has since grown with more structures being erected.

Informal settlement dwellers.

In December last year, the Pretoria High Court dismissed the metro’s urgent application to have them removed from the land, saying there was “no urgency” to the matter.

In its application, the metro said it was urgent because the area is a flood area and occupants could be washed away by floods or heavy rains.

“Apart from losing lives, the occupiers may be displaced and will look to the Tshwane metro to provide aid,” the application read.

However, the court disagreed, prompting the metro to institute the process of placing the matter on the normal roll which might take months for the matter to be heard.

“The courts are not giving us a date,” corporate and shared services MMC Kingsley Wakelin told residents.

She said it could be next year.

“We are in the hands of a judge for a court date. It’s not that we haven’t done anything.”

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Kingsley said the metro was also looking into engaging a new legal counsel to see if they would get better results.

The informal settlement houses about 192 people, some of whom are immigrants from Lesotho and Zimbabwe, while some had unknown citizenship statuses.

A local CPF member, Rian Bester, who attended the meeting disputed these numbers, saying there were “far more” people at the settlement than what the metro is giving.

“I was there recently with the TMPD; there’s a lot more than that. There’s been a massive increase in children,” he said.

Bester blamed the crime in the area on the waste pickers, whom he said were mostly from the informal settlement.

He said if the matter was not given urgent attention, things would get “ugly”.

“Residents are fed up. It’s going to get ugly at some stage because people’s blood is boiling,” he said.

“We are tired of our bicycles, motorbikes and cars getting stolen.

“If we have to wait another year for something to happen, I don’t know – it’s going to be interesting.”

Nava Pillay, a representative from the city manager’s office, said the residents were supposed to be relocated to the newly established Orchards extension 110 where dwellers from many other informal settlements had been relocated.

This was, however, derailed by political influence that led to the dwellers’ change of heart at the 11th hour.

“They had agreed to move. Everything was all set and ready. We had even gone with some of the community leaders to show them where we would be moving them and they were happy.

“Until there were influences from a certain group that led to the people now refusing to be relocated.”

Pallay said while the metro was fighting to have the people evicted, residents should take into consideration socio-economic factors such as a lack of housing and urbanisation.

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City of Tshwane’s Nava Pillay

“We also need to consider that when some people come from various areas to access economic activities in the city, some of them come from far having to spend most of their earnings on transport,” he said.

“There are a lot of things to be considered and we are getting legal advice on all of them.”

In 2021, a report by the Human Rights Commission listed Tshwane as one of the metros with a poor performance in upgrading informal settlements.

The report found the metro was “self-evidently not performing” in implementing the urban settlements development grant on upgrading of informal settlements programme.

192 dwellers at the Wolwespruit. They comprise – 55 South African nationals – 67 Lesotho nationals – 16 Zimbabwean nationals – 55 status unverified

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