Cop families living in state safe houses protest against huge rent increase
Spouses of Cape Town cops living in state safe houses picketed outside Western Cape police headquarters on Thursday against a huge increase in rent.
Mphangeli Jingqi, the SA Police and Allied Workers' Union's (Sapawu's) acting general secretary, said the officers have been given until December 31 to pay market-related rent or vacate the homes. Jingqi said some of the police officers who previously paid between R900 and R1,500 monthly are now required to fork out about R11,000.
“They live in what we call married quarters, comprising two bedrooms, a lounge and a kitchen,” he said. “Before they are accommodated in those houses, the police service does a threat analysis and confirms that the member requires such accommodation.
“This increase in rent is meant to drive the members out of those properties because they cannot afford it. They have been given an option to pay R11,000 or move out.”
Jingqi said the properties are in Cape Town's upmarket suburbs “but the homes are poorly maintained and they are supposed to have security guards but there are no guards there”.
In a joint statement with the NGO Ndifuna Ukwazi, Sapawu described the increase in rent as inflated.
“The families of several SAPS members serving in Cape Town are facing the threat of eviction from official housing and safe houses as SAPS and the national department of public works and infrastructure, who owns the housing, have imposed excessive rent increases on members living in these well-located areas,” the statement said.
“Those who aren’t able to pay these inflated rental amounts must urgently find alternative housing or face homelessness.
“Cape Town remains in the midst of an affordable-housing crisis that has been worsened by the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic. These members are being sacrificed at the altar of market-related rentals and profits by virtue of serving (and living) in well-located areas.
“This exorbitant rental increase will be detrimental to the livelihood of SAPS members in lower income brackets, especially when the official housing is meant for lower ranks (lower than the rank of lieutenant-colonel).”
One of the picketers, Uyanda Maqwanzima, said she has been living in one of the safe houses for four years. Maqwanzima said her family has been told that if they defy the instruction, R11,000 would be deducted from her husband's salary.
“I live with my husband and four children,” she said. “We were moved there because I was pointed with a firearm where we used to live. This is depressing us. We are awaiting a response from SAPS, who promised to respond by December 15.
“There are about 50 families living on that property. If we don't get a satisfactory answer on that day, all of us will descend on SAPS headquarters.”
Maqwanzima said the rental the officers paid for the accommodation depended on their rank.
“We used to pay R2,000 monthly but now the rent has been hiked to R11,000,” she said. “It's going to be difficult for us because our children go to the local schools.”
Provincial police spokesperson Col Andrè Traut said the housing issue is an internal matter.
“What you are referring to is our housing policy, which is a transparent and fair process where tenants of police accommodation are rotated on a three-year basis,” said Traut.
“This is, however, an internal affair and is treated as such. Our members are acquainted with the policy and grievances will only be facilitated if the correct channels are followed.”