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Soweto hostel residents moved to safe temporary units


More than 60 families at the Diepkloof Hostel in Soweto had a relatively peaceful sleep on Thursday night after they were moved from dilapidated units to temporary shelter within the precinct.
The emergency relocation was led by Member of the Mayoral Committee for Housing Councillor Dan Bovu, who said the City of Johannesburg had to act timeously to avoid what could have been a humanitarian disaster.

The Diepkloof Hostel was built in the 1970s by the apartheid government. Over the years, it became dilapidated and uninhabitable. MMC Bovu said the 60 or so families were living in one of the most dangerous parts of the hostel. They will be accommodated in temporary structures within the grounds of the hostel.

The temporary structures were erected to ease housing problems within the hostel while the City continued with its plan to demolish the whole complex and replace it with high-rise flats. There were whistling and ululations when the MMC handed over keys to the desperate families, who were just too happy to have a proper roof over their heads.

A relieved Thuli Maseko, a mother of four, said she was going to have a peaceful sleep and would stop worrying about her safety and that of her children. The MMC said he believed the planned high-rise flats would contribute immensely to the alleviation of the housing shortage and creating sustainable families.

“We are moving away from apartheid-style buildings. We have also learned that some of the hostel residents are unemployed and poor, which is why we are doing away with the rent option,” he said.

The MMC was cheered when he announced that close to 90 new units built and completed in 2008 around the hostel would be occupied by May 4. He said some of the units were RDP homes that would be allocated to deserving families.

Though the majority of families were relieved to be accommodated in the temporary structures, some felt it was too little too late. A cynical Induna Mxolisi Thusini said the whole exercise was a smokescreen meant to hoodwink hostel residents to vote for the ANC in the forthcoming municipal elections. MMC Bovu, however, said the City was determined to ensure it speeded up the revamp of all hostels in Soweto.