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Housing office won't re-open in Manenberg

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Housing office won't re-open in Manenberg

by Esther Lewis
01 Aug 2007
Peoples Post
Peoples Post

Gang violence in Manenberg saw the Manenberg Housing Office move to a safer location in Heideveld earlier this year. But now it seems this temporary measure may become permanent.

In February this year, gangs heated up the area, and Housing Office staff feared for their lives and general safetey.

"Since the safety of the staff in Manenberg could not be guaranteed, a decision was taken not to re-open the office," says Grace Blouw, manager of existing settlements in the city's Housing Directorate.

As an employer, the city's responsibility is safeguarding its staff, she says.

But the old housing office will not go to waste. The city may allow the Metro Police to use the office space as a satellite station, Blouw indicates.

She also says other non-governmental organisations are interested in using the premises.

"At the same time, a feasibility study is being conducted to ascertain what the best piece of available land within the Manenberg area would be to build a new office that will serve as a 'one stop shop' to cater for the needs not only of Manenberg residents, but also those of surrounding communities," Blouw explains.

She adds that there will be a proper consultation process before any decision is made.

But Marion Williams, secretary of the Manenberg Health Committee, says the relocation of the housing office happened because there was no community consultation.

"City officials do things in their own little world, without speaking to the community," Williams says.

There was talk of the clinic moving out of the area too when the violence flared up, says Williams. But because safety concerns were brought to the attention of the Health Committee, the issues were resolved and the clinic stayed where it is.

Money was pumped into upgrading safety facilities instead. "I feel they should have stayed here. Because they work in isolation, they can't relate to the community.

"And the community needs them here," Williams says. Vuyo Cishe of the People Centre agrees with Williams. She regularly deals with people who don't know where to go with their housing complaints.

"The people are not happy that they must go all the way to Heideveld. There are a lot of old people and those who can't afford to pay for a taxi who complain," says Cishe.

She feels that while the Heideveld office is convenient for only a few, each and every community deserves to have its own housing office.

Heideveld is just two kilometres away from Manenberg, and would probably take two minutes to drive there. But for many people, a R10 round-trip is something they simply cannot afford. And the recent heavy rain is not helping.

There does, however, seem to be light at the end of this tunnel. In an attempt to address this issue, Blouw says the housing department is looking at a practical solution.

"We are looking into the possibility of stationing staff in the community centre at least once or twice a week to deal with the housing concerns of Manenberg residents who are unable to get to the Heideveld office," she says.

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