A place to call home

Residents dismantling their former homes.

Municipal workers employed to dismantle shacks in informal settlements usu ally have to put up with confro ntation and heckling.

But as a fleet of trucks pulled into Thabo Mbeki informal settlement on Thursday September 26, to load up the belongings of its residents, there was much celebration.

This was because the belongings and their owners were being relocated to Forest Village, near Kuils River, where 22 residents would be moving into formal houses allocated to them by the Department of Human Settlements.

The delighted residents said it had taken years for them to get houses.

Mack Mbiyashe applied for a proper house 10 years ago and last Thursday, at 69 years old, he became a homeowner for the very first time.

“For all the years that I have been here I was lucky. I started this area and now my heart is floating with happiness. I cannot wait to arrive in my house,” he said.

He was grateful, he said, that flooding would be a thing of the past, as would unhealthy toilets and criminal activities.

“But I must say, God has been good to me. He saved me from so many things here.

“We all know how informal settlements can be. There is crime, floods, toilets not cleaned. I am grateful to move to a proper house,” he said.

For his wife Nowandile, however, the move was bitter– sweet. As happy as she was to be getting a formal house, she said, she was not happy to leave her loving people behind.

Ms Mbiyashe, who is a social worker, said she would always come back to the area. Talking about the move to Forest Village, she said;–“This is like going on a honeymoon.

“This is like a rebirth of some sort. But I am not happy to leave my people behind. But I will always be available for them,” she said.

After being on the housing waiting list for years, Nicolas Mbabane was smiling on the day. “I feel blessed to have a proper roof over my head and to know it belongs to me.

“I am getting away from tsotsis (thugs) and the fear of being robbed or my shack burgled. I am excited — finally I am moving out,” said Mr Mbabane.

He wished those left behind would also be allocated houses and thanked everyone involved in the process of getting him a house.