The endless New Rest dilemma

IT’S called protest season because it seems to be happening everywhere at the same time.

The latest local one is at New Rest informal settlement, where shack-dwellers say they have been waiting 17 years for promised land or housing in the Thornhill housing development.

New Rest is a strange creature. It really shouldn’t exist anymore, as the people living there were meant to be accommodated in the first phase of Thornhill – 500 new homes.

But something happened and it’s not clear what it is. Either other people got those nice new homes in Thornhill ahead of the New Rest residents, or there is a whole new wave of informal settlement residents who are now waiting in line.

When the first occupants moved into their homes in Thornhill about eight years ago, the Ndlambe council made a point of saying their shacks at New Rest should be demolished before anyone else moves in. Which begged the question, from where?

Councillors and officials also expressed concern that some beneficiaries of new homes at Thornhill were renting out their new homes, for residential or spaza shop purposes, and moving back into their old shacks in New Rest.

New Rest seems as populated and miserable as it ever was.

I suppose once a person has received a title deed, they can do whatever they want with their property. But it would be fraud to try to get on a housing waiting list again if they already were given a home and opted to move back to their shack while making some rental income on the side.

It also makes public sympathy about their living conditions evaporate.

Despite council’s concerns, we do not know the outcome of any investigation into potential housing fraud or if there was any attempt at demolition of vacated shacks. New Rest seems as populated and miserable as it ever was.

If the people protesting on the R67 are being truthful about the alleged injustice being done to them, then the department of human settlements needs to make amends and the residents definitely need to get what was promised to them.

The municipality is only involved because it is at the coalface of service delivery, making motivations to human settlements about the needs of the community.

While we may disagree about the means they use to make their voices heard, by blocking a road and inconveniencing motorists, we do sympathise with their plight.

And when the new phase of homes is built, council needs to do what it said it would and bulldoze those vacant shacks, or it will be a never-ending cycle of new occupants and expectations.

– Jon Houzet

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