IN THE NAME OF MANDELA, WHERE IS MY HOUSE?

This is the desperate cry of Angeline Armoed, the recipient of an official promise of a ‘Mandela Day’ house presented to her in 2019. A promise that to date, has simply come to nothing.
As part of the July 18 Mandela Day celebrations last year, an official letter of commitment for a new home – on an open piece of land on Rooikrans Avenue in Smutsville – was ceremoniously presented to the 58-year-old grandmother by the then Knysna Mayor, Mark Willemse, with numerous other councillors and Municipal officials, including the since suspended Municipal Manager Dr S Vatala, looking on.
Indeed, the news of this amazing gift from the Municipality (in conjunction with a private construction company Nyameko Trading 618CC) made the front page of The EDGE, with photographs of the dignitaries present (hard hats and all!) taking part in the momentous ‘ground breaking’ ceremony.
But now, 15 months later, that same piece of ground remains ‘unbroken’ and is as vacant as it was back then. Angeline is still living in a dilapidated, two-roomed, backyard shack with her two children and five grandchildren.
At the 2019 handover ceremony, she had been described as the ideal person to receive this special gift. Annie Brinkhuis, who held the Human Settlements portfolio on the local Ward Committee, had reported that Angeline had been a ‘backyard dweller’ since her husband died in 2002, and she and her children had battled to make ends meet since then.
“She was actually on the list to receive one of the first RDP houses in the late nineties,” Annie told us at the time, “But somehow her name got shifted off and she lost out.” A spokesperson for Knysna Municipality had said that the family’s vulnerability made them an ideal recipient of this housing opportunity, because the household was exposed to extreme poverty.
Earlier this year, Angeline made some enquiries as to what was happening and why no one had made contact with her about her new home. She was simply told to wait until 30 June as the Municipality was getting funds together. But that date came and went.
When the current Knysna Mayor van Aswegen visited Sedgefield a few weeks later, she tried to approach him outside the Sedgefield Municipal offices to discuss the matter. She felt, however, that he gave her the cold shoulder. “It was like he didn’t want to speak to me,” she said.
Angeline believes that she has been made to look a fool in front of her community.
“There I was, on the front page of The EDGE because I was getting a house at last, but since then nothing has happened.” Now, to make matters worse, she and her family are under extreme pressure to move from their current dwelling, because the owners of that property need the land for their own use.
Ward One Councillor Levael Davis says he is doing everything he can to put right this wrong and to help Angeline and her family’s dream of owning their own home become a reality. “Ms. Armoed has been on the waiting list for more than thirty (30) years. The Human Settlements Department as part of Mandela Day offered to build her a house and I have on numerous occasions tried to get to the root of the delay, but no answer has been forthcoming. It is unacceptable that the promised house has not yet been built. The Municipality must make an urgent plan to ensure that they provide what was promised”.
When asked for feedback, a Knysna Municipal Spokesperson sent the following response.
“There was indeed a previous undertaking by a construction company who volunteered to build the house as part of the Mandela Day Celebrations. Unfortunately, the volunteer company withdrew from the project due to capacity constraints.
“Notwithstanding this unfortunate setback, the Municipality has looked at other scenarios which will now see the construction of the house included in the Sedgefield infill project which is in its planning stage.
“The beneficiary, Mrs Armoed, has been briefed on the reality of the lack of any further commitment by the volunteering company and that the proposed unit will be part of the planned future Sedgefield Infill BNG housing project. The local ward councillor Levael Davis, who has made similar queries about the delays, has also been briefed.
“The above remains the current status of the matter and Mrs Armoed and her family will be given updates when necessary.”