Manenberg residents call for transparency over housing projects

The building site in Irvine Street, Manenberg, a Mellon Housing Initiative project.

Manenberg residents feel that they deserve more transparency from the City of Cape Town when housing projects are undertaken in the area.

Chairman of the Manenberg Business Economic Forum, Wayne Isaacs, said residents were not aware of when a building project would start and only found out once building had already started.

He said despite there being many unemployed people in the area, the same people were often employed on a number of projects.

“These people are all selected privately; there is no transparency. The steering committee is not even known to us,” he said.

Zuleiga Mohamad who has lived in the area for 50 years, said labourers who worked on the project sites were not all from the area and claimed that they were underpaid.

She also complained that residents were not given enough time to apply for jobs.

“Why must we fight to get jobs? We want to know how do they select the labourers and why do they advertise it for two days before the interviews happen? They say it is a people’s project but people are not getting jobs through it, the same people are being employed over and over. This is a community project it belongs to us and they must be kept accountable,” she said.

But Mellon Housing Initiative (MHI) spokesman, Abrie Loots, said several meetings had been held with the project steering committee and ward councillors during the pre-construction phase.

“We decided to advertise in the local newspaper and spread the word around site.

“We decided to first employ people from local wards before we would look at adjacent wards. The CVs are delivered to the CLO (community liaison officer) at the site yard where experience and references are checked,” he said.

The City of Cape Town’s spokeswoman, Lizel Steenkamp, added: “The project you are referring to is a People’s Housing Project (PHP) and the support organisation, elected by the beneficiaries, is part of the development team and is aware of and participate in all of the decisions taken on the project.

“The support organisation must keep the beneficiaries informed – this is part of their mandate.

“MHI, the contractor, placed advertisements in the local newspaper calling on local businesses and subcontractors from Manenberg and surrounding areas to submit their CVs at the MHI site office in Ervine Street.

“The advertisement made it clear that those with experience in building should apply, in particular local contractors who are ‘skilled in bricklaying, plastering, roofing, carpentry’.

“The advertisement appeared on August 8, and CV’s had to be submitted by August 13, thus, within a week.

“Thus, apart from the fact that the support organisation should keep the local community informed, there was also an advertisement placed to inform interested subcontractors of the work opportunities related to this project.”