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Families living in tents for years to be moved for fear of Covid-19

24 April 2020 - 08:01 By Belinda Pheto
The tents in which about 64 families have been staying for almost four years after being evicted from privately owned land. The City of Joburg will build temporary structures for the families.
The tents in which about 64 families have been staying for almost four years after being evicted from privately owned land. The City of Joburg will build temporary structures for the families.
Image: Supplied

More than 60 families living in tents at Honeydew, west of Johannesburg, are due to be moved into temporary shelters, partly due to fears of people in the densely populated area being at risk of contracting Covid-19.

Mayoral committee member for housing in the City of Johannesburg Mlungisi Mabaso told TimesLIVE that temporary structures were being built for the 64 families living at plot 323 in Ruimsig, west of Johannesburg.

They will be among hundreds moved to temporary structures, with some staying in containers for almost four years now.

“This is in response to the pronouncement made by the national human settlements in response to the Covid-19 outbreak,” Mabaso said.

Mabaso could not say how long the temporary arrangement would last. He said the city council had already approved a draft development plan for housing and this group would be among the beneficiaries.

“At this moment, we are waiting for the provincial government to approve and fund the project,” he said.

One of the community leaders, Lebo Mafokane, said the families had been living in inhumane conditions, with some sharing tents.

“Where is the dignity in all of that? Different families sharing one tent, with no privacy at all,” Mafokane said.

Mafokane lodged a complaint with the office of the public protector last year, after what he said was a lack of basic service delivery from the authorities.

Last Friday, a representative from the office of the public protector visited the area to establish what the situation was.

But some factions in the community say the protector's office is not welcome.

“We are not happy with the public protector being personally involved and pushing this development and undoing years [of the city's] work, town planning and environmental studies, and bypassing all the laws and regulations around housing developments,” said a representative from the Honeydew community who wished to remain anonymous for fear of being victimised.

Some residents also did not welcome the building of temporary structures.

“The emergency housing [tents] provided to the families is what is allowed on the land as part of the original eviction order,” said the representative.

Another community leader, Mpiyake Thebehadi said they had endured some of the hardest time in their lives.  

“Rain, wind, cold, heat and any weather condition found us here. We’ve been living under bad conditions.”

Thebehadi said they were happy that work for temporary structures had begun.

“It’s beautiful to witness this history unfold in our eyes and we are glad that government has heard our pleas,” he said.


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