WILDERNESS NEWS - The Wilderness Heights informal settlement community committee is concerned about the increasing number of foreigners moving into the area, adding to unemployment numbers among locals, they say.
"The foreigners are willing to work for very little money, R50 or R70 per day, even on a Sunday," says Annie Solomons, a member of the committee.
According to committee member Colin Wildeman, the settlement's residents make money out of the foreigners by providing expensive lodging. "But there are also those who live in Thembalethu and come with taxis to work in Wilderness Heights. They increase our risk of getting the coronavirus because Thembalethu is a hotspot. Men also do housework, which means our local women lose their jobs," says Wildeman.
"It is not that we do not like the foreigners, they are kind people, but it is becoming a problem because they are taking away our work. And there are those who are involved in drug peddling.
"Those who do not have the necessary documentation and are here illegally, can easily commit a crime and disappear without a trace. We feel that if the people of the Heights want to employ foreigners, they should provide lodging for them on their own properties."
Wilderness Heights ratepayer Michael Leggatt also expressed concern over the issue, saying that at least 26 immigrants live in the settlement, and more are moving in. "I suspect at least three times that number are living and working on private properties in the area. People employing foreigners illegally, and housing them on their properties, are worsening unemployment among locals in the informal area.
"For some time now, the number of youths harassing you whenever you park somewhere in the village has increased, and I think this is a result of unemployment in the informal settlement. The municipality should check on illegal structures there."
Immigration Management Services (IMS) at the Home Affairs Department responded as follows to an enquiry from the newspaper: "IMS George once visited the said area to conduct a preliminary in loco inspection as part of a district operational plan.
"The office had planned to conduct a follow-up operation to address the matter. However, the plans were disrupted by the country's lockdown. The operational plan details remain a security matter, of course pursuant to effective and successful operation."
Housing consequences of lodging non-residents
According to George Municipality Human Settlements director Charles Lubbe, an on-site investigation was conducted to determine which structures that are inhabited have been set up in the informal settlement recently.
"According to the report received, there are people who have lived there since the inception of the informal area who have enlarged their families and added additional rooms to change their living conditions. It has come to light that there are inhabitants who are lodging in the informal area, which is not allowed in terms of a decision taken by the inhabitants themselves. The municipality does not have any control over whom the residents allow to lodge in the informal settlement. We can only appeal to the residents to halt this practice."
He said the lodging of non-residents can cause problems when work starts on the new housing project that is being planned on the land of the informal settlement. The municipal housing department has a list of current inhabitants that qualify for the new housing project.
"Wilderness Heights is one of the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements' catalytic projects and that department is responsible for the planning of the project. The municipality is not in a position to confirm a date of when building will start."
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