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No living room for Manenberg family

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No living room for Manenberg family

by Esther Lewis
12 Sep 2007
Peoples Post
Peoples Post

Seventeen years ago, Sharon Louw's name was added to the ever-growing housing waiting list. Today she and her husband, Arthur, share a couch in the lounge of her mother's Manenberg house. Nine other people, including their four children, share two bedrooms.


Arthur and Sharon used to live in her mother's back yard in a shack that was two and-a-half metres in length and width (6,25m2 in area). This is just slightly larger than a standard single prison cell.

At the start of winter, the little shack leaked terribly and they were forced to moved inside the house and onto the couch.

Sharon is but one of 3 075 housing applicants in Manenberg. She is number 528 in the queue. The figure in the city now stands at around 280 000.

Based on the annual deliveryof 10 200 houses per year (plus annual growth of 16 000), it would take 30 years to reach current targets, says Seth Maquetuka, Director of Strategy, Support and Coordination, Housing Directoratethe. While the backlog grows each day, the Louws feel less than confident that they will ever get to the front of that queue.

"We wrote so many letters to Cape Town Mayor Helen Zille, Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool; all the different organisations that deal with this kind of thing. But nobody can help us," says Arthur.

The couple have four children, the youngest in Grade Three.

"He had to repeat the year, because he was struggling. Every time we move, it disrupts the children. They are the ones suffering more than anything," says Sharon.

They have lived in many a back yard, but each time they are booted out due to various reasons.

To add insult to injury, Arthur lost his job as a painter earlier this year.

During the gang violence in Manenberg in January, he was hit in the leg by a stray bullet. This has left him with a permanent limp. He cannot work any longer, because he finds it difficult to walk or stand for long periods of time.

It is also painful to carry heavy buckets of paint. Now the only income for him and his family is a social grant of R200 per month.

Arthur has tried to get a disability grant, but he has no identity do?cument. It was lost in one of the many occasions moving house. He applied for his identity document in February. This is another long wait he's had to endure.

"It feels like we are getting nowhere," Arthur says. He and his wife say they were told they would be considered if any new housing projects came to their area.

But at this point, they are willing to live anywhere as long as they can call the house their own and their family can stay together.

In the meantime the couple continue to give new meaning to the words "living room", as that is where they are most likely to stay if things don't improve for them.

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