Court rules in favour of residents in RDP housing allocation case

Endumeni residents outside the Pietermaritzburg High Court in December 2017. Photo by Elitsha reporter

The Pietermaritzburg High Court ruled in favour of residents of Endumeni in Northern KwaZulu-Natal who have been waiting for nearly two decades to receive RDP houses. The court found the conduct of the municipality was unconstitutional.

Pietermaritzburg High Court, Church Street, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

There were scenes of joy outside the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Friday as the judge ruled in favour of the residents of Endumeni in Northern KwaZulu-Natal in their case against Endumeni Municipality regarding the allocation of RDP houses.

The ruling means that Endumeni Municipality will be compelled to explain the steps it will take to finalise the applications for RDP houses and allocate houses to the correct applicants. For many, this was an end to a long saga of hardship and Friday’s ruling gives hope that in 2018 they will eventually have their own houses.

Mzwakhe Sithebe, chairperson of Endumeni Civic Association, described the outcome as a victory for human rights. “When we speak of a constitutional democracy where human rights are protected we are referring to this. The court ruled that these residents’ rights had been trampled upon by the municipality and the situation should be corrected. Honestly I am elated about today’s outcome,” he said.

For Sibongile Linah Buthelezi (60) the court ruling brings promise of a better future and a life away from an informal settlement. When she was in court back in November 2017, she was hopeful that the court would rule in their favour. “Today is quite an important day in my life because the judge’s decision brings me closer to realising the dream of owning a house, something that I have been waiting for over a long period of time,” said Buthelezi. The ruling comes just weeks after her shack and those of many others living in Sibongile Settlement in Endumeni was battered by heavy storms in December. While she knows that she will not get a house tomorrow, she is confident that by the end of 2018 she will have her RDP house.

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Their lawyer, Advocate Thabiso Mbhense said they were confident from the onset that they would succeed. “When we made our case it was on solid ground, with the names of the beneficiaries listed and we demonstrated that the people had been hard done by the process. That is why we always believed that we would be victorious,” said Mbhense.

According to the ruling, Endumeni Municipality has to file its response by 30 April on how they intend to correct the situation. It also ruled that the arbitrary‚ irrational and unreasonable allocation of houses in Ward 4 and 5 must be reviewed and set aside. Mbhense added they would be waiting for the municipality to make representations as per the judge’s instruction, before filing their responses. Addressing community members outside the court, Mbhense said that the court ruling would be made available in isiZulu so that everyone would be able to understand it.

Some of the 294 residents who challenged the arbitrary application and manipulation of the RDP housing waiting lists‚ and the unclear allocation systems and policies. Photo by Elitsha reporter

Mzwandile Masondo (60 years) said he had been feeling good since learning that the judge would give the verdict. He has been part of the struggle that has involved protest action, sit-ins and the court case. He is glad that the judge has ruled in their favour. “We have been through a lot over the years, that is why a day like this is of such importance to us,” he said.

Sibongile “Mabusi” Mchunu (50 years) said that while she is happy that the judge ruled in their favour, she is equally concerned that the person occupying her house has caused damage to it, including connecting electricity illegally. The advocate assured her that the municipality would be compelled to see to it that when the rightful owners of the RDP house receive their properties, they would be in a good condition.

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According to Sithebe while they know that they won the case they would not forcefully remove the current occupants, as this would dent their cause. “We want to see to it that while our rights have been violated by the municipality through wrongfully allocating RDP houses, we don’t violate the rights of the current occupants,” said the chairperson of Endumeni Civic Association.

The ruling does stipulate, however, that the municipality has to explain the criteria it will use to ensure that people who do not qualify for the allocation of a home are removed from houses they currently occupy.

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