Hope at Freedom Park settlement

Tony Allison and partner Betty van Wyk are overjoyed to be moving to their new homes.

The multi-million rand upgrade of the Freedom Park informal settlement in Ottery is progressing well and residents are overjoyed that they’ll soon be able to move into their new homes. However, concerns have been raised about the temporary relocation.

The Upgrading Informal Settlements Programme (UISP) planning and land use processes were completed and construction of civil and electrical engineering services started in February – some of the roads and infrastructure are already visible at the site.

Roads and infrastructure are coming together at Freedom Park in Ottery.

If all goes according to plan construction is expected to be completed by the end of October this year with a projected cost of R24.6 million.

As part of the process, residents will be moved into containers while their structures are demolished to make way for their new homes to be built according to UISP standards.

The relocation is well understood and accepted by residents but they are concerned that the families – some who are more than 10 in one household – will be moved to a 3×6 meter container.

Dennis Buggs in his kitchen which is about 3×6 meters.

Freedom Park committee member and long-time resident Dennis Buggs said he had waited nearly 30 years for a proper home after many winters in wet and flooded conditions at the settlement.

Mr Buggs took the Southern Mail through the home he shares with his wife, children and grandchildren – their kitchen alone is 3×6 meters.

“We are 10 people and we will not be able to fit in the containers the City is offering us. Besides us, our furniture, clothes and all our other things have to be moved and kept safe too. The containers they are offering just aren’t (big) enough and we are very worried.”

Mervyn Jumat and Dennis Buggs at one of the many homes at the settlement. Most of the structures are run down and dilapitated.

He said the community were grateful for the much needed upgrade and welcomed the steps the City had taken to offer better homes for them as many of the homes at the settlement were delapidated.

“We appreciate what is being done for us as the community of Freedom Park because our people are struggling and our structures are rotting and falling apart,” said Mr Buggs.

“We have been waiting for years for this – all we ask is that the City take our concerns into consideration and accommodate us with our large families and to be able to protect the furniture and assets we worked so hard to secure over the years.”

He recommended a 6×9 meter container for the families and all their assets.

Another committee member, Mervyn Jumat, said there had been numerous complaints from other residents about the prospect of multiple family members being crammed into one 3×6 meter space.

“I’m concerned that the City might halt the proceedings if we complain about this. We have waited so long for the upgrade, I don’t want anything to delay the process, so yes I understand the concerns but I wan’t the work to continue and not for us to get distracted before the construction work starts.”

Construction of civil and electrical engineering services started in February.

Malusi Booi, the City’s Mayco member for human settlements, said the construction had started with minimal disturbance to the residents of the informal settlement. “To complete the balance of the internal civil engineering infrastructure related to the project, unfortunately temporary relocations will be required.”

He added that the intended relocation was purely to move families away from where new infrastructure needed to be installed. The first relocation, he said, was expected to take place in September.

“It’s likely that the third wave of Covid-19 will have passed us by then, with lockdown levels reduced.

“Relocations will be carried out in a responsible manner with the issues having been resolved.”

Asked if there would be any alternatives for bigger families, Mr Booi said they were aware of the contention about the family size issues and would look into alternative ways to best resolve the issues which would be dealt with on a case to case basis.

“Due to the temporary nature of the relocation, the size of the top structure offered was minimal to best fit all beneficiaries in the limited available project space for a short period before their final relocation onto more spacious formal service sites. Further engagements are ongoing to address this.”