The Mtebele and Tomi families celebrated the news they would be homeowners for the first time since they arrived at the Zithulele Township in Butterworth after more than 40 years.
They, among 103 other families at Zithulele Township, were informed they would soon receive title deeds to the properties which they previously rented from the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC).
MEC for Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism Lubabalo Oscar Mabuyane handed out letters of intent to the 105 families as proof of ownership while they await the finalisation of the title deeds transfer process.
The celebrations were a culmination of a deal between the ECDC which owns the township which has 105 houses and eight vacant plots and the Mnquma Local Municipality. As part of the deal, the ECDC has transferred its ownership of the township to the Mnquma Local Municipality which will, in turn, manage the finalisation of the title deeds which will be handed over to the current tenants.
Mirriam Mtebele, 74 who arrived at Zithulele Township 43 years ago, was 28 years old when she arrived at the township from Ngqamakhwe to work at the industrial park in the area. She currently shares the house with her daughter-in-law and her four children as well as five grandchildren.
“Today is a joyous occasion for me and my family even though this moment comes at my old age. Today after 43 years I will become a homeowner for the first time. I will have a legacy to leave for my children. I am a pensioner now relying on an old age grant. I was always worried about the uncertainty of leaving my children with nothing when I die.
“I also took the liberty of building another three bedrooms in the yard to accommodate my large family,” says Mtebele who only heard she would be a homeowner a day before the Easter Holidays.
Noanswer Tomi, 64 arrived at the township in 1972 at the age of 18 with her husband who found work at the factories in Zithulele. Her husband passed away in 2015 and she says he would have been delighted to see his life’s dream come to fruition.
“My husband would have been overjoyed. This is what he worked for all his life. He would have wanted to be here to witness his dreams come true before leaving us.
“At some stage, we had given up and I even extended the house even though I was uncertain if the house would not be taken away from us. When I heard we would have a title deed for the first time early in April I thought it was a joke and I didn’t want to believe it. I thought they were just messing with our feelings,” says Tomi.
Mabuyane says although rental income is important for agencies such as ECDC for sustainability, the government decided that ECDC should transfer the Zithulele houses which are occupied by the indigent.
“This shows that this is a caring government that listens to its people. Government has an obligation to ensure that everyone has a house to call home and today we are fulfilling that obligation.
“Government also decided in conjuction with ECDC and Mnquma Local Municipality that these properties should be transferred for free to those who already occupy these houses. They are already indigent. This is an important milestone because most of the residents are unemployed and cannot afford to buy property. We share in their joy and in the fulfilment of their aspirations,” says Mabuyane.
ECDC chief executive officer Ndzondelelo Dlulane says as part of the agreement, ECDC has provided the municipality with a list of valid tenants who have a right to take ownership of each property once the municipality effects the transfer. The township was developed for the purpose of providing residential housing for workers who were employed at the nearby Zithulele Factories in Butterworth.
“This means the municipality will transfer the properties to the current indigent tenants. The tenants do not pay rates or rental on the residential properties. They will have title deeds for the first time which will enhance the dignity of these families,” says Dlulane.
The municipality will subdivide the houses and issue erf numbers to the individual properties. The houses were initially built as two-bedroomed houses but many tenants have since extended the structures. The size of the standalone stands ranges from 300 to 600 square metres.
“The transfer of these stand-alone houses in Zithulele is line with the ECDC property strategy of unbundling non-core assets. This includes the sale of stand-alone residential properties whose proceeds are being used to improve ECDC’s commercial and industrial property portfolio. The R74 million Mthatha Garden Court upgrade is an example of the spin-offs of this strategy,” explains Dlulane.
Mnquma Local Municipality Mayor Sithembiso Ncetezo says this landmark agreement is in line with the government’s developmental agenda of ensuring that the indigent have access to shelter.
“The agreement reached between Mnquma and ECDC is art of the government’s developmental agenda which seeks to ensure that ordinary South Africans and the previously disadvantaged are provided with shelter wherever possible.
The provision of housing is a basic human right thatis entrenched in the Constitution. This landmark agreement will not only restore the dignity of the residents of Zithulele but it also signals the transfer of land to its rightful owners,” says Mahlasela.