New life for 'Biko building'

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Port Elizabeth's notorious Sanlam Building, where black consciousness leader Steve Biko was tortured by the then security police in 1977, will be transformed into a social and rental housing project by the end of the year.

Eastern Cape Human Settlements MEC Helen Sauls-August announced yesterday that the National Heritage Council had given the go-ahead to transform the monument into a social housing project.

The Strand Street building, which was an apartheid state security branch office, is in a shoddy condition.

Last year, marking the 38th anniversary of Biko’s death, Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Danny Jordaan called for the building to become a historical centre.

Delivering her policy speech at the Bhisho legislature yesterday, Sauls-August said: “The department is proud to announce that it will convert the notorious erstwhile apartheid state security branch offices, the old Sanlam Building in the Nelson Mandela metro, into a thriving social and rental housing project named the Steve Biko Munford project.”

Her spokesman, Lwandile Sicwetsha, said there were about 220 units on the property which would be revamped by December.

Sauls-August also announced that about 3000 houses would be constructed in the city during the 2016-17 financial year.

One of the projects is in Walmer township where the government will start with the construction of about 500 houses before the end of the financial year, which means beneficiaries will be relocated soon.

This is a major feat for residents in the area who have in the past embarked on a number of violent service delivery protests.

Sauls-August said other areas where housing construction would take place were Missionvale G, Joe Slovo Uitenhage, Khayamnandi, Mandelaville, Ebhongweni, KwaNobuhle areas 2, 7 and 8, Joe Slovo West, Chatty and Soweto-on-Sea.

Multipurpose centres in Uitenhage and Motherwell would be completed this year.

“A second phase of the Fairview Link social housing is currently under construction and over 100 rental units will be ready for occupation between April and May this year,” Sauls-August said.

Overall, her department planned to build more than 13000 housing units in the province this year. She said this was their target despite a drop of R176-million in their human settlements development grant from the national government.

The grant allocated for the financial year amounted to R1.99-billion.

Sauls-August said the projects would unlock 10783 job opportunities.

“I call upon municipalities to lead in enforcing the credibility of beneficiary lists .

“All municipalities are expected to establish housing allocations committees whose responsibility will be to ensure there is fairness and transparency in the allocation of houses among different groups, taking into account gender, youth, women and other vulnerable groups,” Sauls-August said.