Over the weekend a group of individuals allegedly illegally occupied 10th Avenue in Retreat. The occupants had apparently paid R50 to Howard Soetwater, who represents the Homeless People Organization and were, subsequently, forcibly removed by law enforcement.
Ward Councillor of the Human Settlements Portfolio Committee and Municipal Public Accounts Committee of Ward 72, Kevin Southgate, confirmed that Soetwater charged individuals R50 to register for the plots and that the occupants, who appear to not be from the immediate area, have occupied a large area of land.
Soetwater has over a period of time, rallied individuals to pay, what he terms “an administration fee of R50 or more”, and in exchange promised individuals a house.
“The local ward council condemns the land invasion, in the strongest terms,” Southgate said.
“If you want to qualify for a house from the city, all you need to do is go to the local housing office, complete the application form at no cost, and your name goes onto the City’s housing database.”
Southgate affirms that the management of the Homeless Peoples Organization is calling Soetwater to account for the money that he has collected.
Southgate further noted that the illegal occupants of the land are between the ages of 18 and 25 years, and fully understand that their actions are illegal.
“As a way of deflecting attention from himself, he has encouraged a handful of individuals to occupy the land; they know that it is illegal.”
Southgate explained that there is currently a case pending against Soetwater “but he continues to indiscriminately go around there [and collect money].”
He, therefore, urged law enforcement officials to “tackle” the actions of Soetwater, which he asserts has incited violence and caused damage to city property.
“The tyres that they burnt in 10th Avenue and along Joe Marks Boulevard on Sunday, has caused extensive damage to the road surface, so [Soetwater] needs to answer for his actions,” Southgate concluded.
VOC (Thakira Desai)