After nearly seven years living in temporary structures, Lesseyton residents are set to have their RDP house project unblocked and the outstanding works to begin next year.
Zola, Xuma Tabatha, Toisekraal and Ekuphumleni are the places expected to benefit from the unblocking of the project.
Department of human settlements (DHS) MEC Nonkqubela Pieters made this announcement on her recent visit to Komani, adding that the unblocking of the project would prioritise 82 outstanding houses by the middle of the 2021/2022 financial year.
The MEC reassured Lesseyton residents who had lost hope that the project would indeed start as the department was finalising the procurement processes.
“We will focus on the slabs which have already been built and the unfinished houses.
“The rectification of houses is another process that must still be followed,” Pieters said.
The 700-house RDP project began in 2009 and came to a halt when a number of things went wrong. These included house encroachments, while some of the houses were built in public spaces such as for a reservoir, church, clinic, street, community hall, sports field and pump station to name a few.
Some of the complete houses were in poor condition, one of the reasons that forced the department to source temporary structures for residents whose houses were collapsing.
The poor quality of the houses led the department to fire the construction companies.
However, Zola resident Zolile Tonga remains sceptical if the construction will indeed take place next year.
Tonga said it was not uncommon to hear such promises from the department as it happened in 2016 and 2018.
Tonga has been advocating since 2014 for the department to address the aforementioned irregularities and to get the people’s houses rebuilt.
When he saw no action from the DHS, he wrote to the public protector.
He said it was concerning that the department could not start the project sooner, using the remaining amount allocated for the project.
“The officials said the money for the project had run out, which did not make sense.” Tonga also stated that some of the contractors were not paid.
However, he still has many questions about where the rest of the money had disappeared to as the project was stopped without completion.
After advocate Vusumzi Ngamlana from the Eastern Cape office of the public protector, investigated what had happened in 2018, he sent a report to Tonga.
The report stated that he agreed the houses were not in good order and he had witnessed a number of faults and irregularities.
But Tonga was disappointed that after Ngamlana’s findings no-one was held accountable by the public protector for the clear irregularities in the project.
The Rep reporter visited the Lesseyton areas and witnessed the encroachments, unused foundation slabs with vegetation growing on the surface and houses built in public spaces, while most completed houses showed cracks in the walls.
In Toisekraal a neighbour’s house encroaches on Mwezeni Sifolo’s yard. Sifolo said: “This caused a feud between my neighbour and me, but over time we made peace.”
Zoleka Guda from Xuma Tabata said: “My door does not close because the crack damaged the hinges. The problem is the foundation.
“Erf 587 in Zola is not recognised by Enoch Mgijima human settlements’ system. I want to know what the department plans to do with this house, the encroachment and those built on public spaces,” Tonga said.
The Rep reporter also witnessed a temporary structure which had been destroyed by weathering.
Ngesana Baba, 87, from Xuma Tabata, lives with his brother Khathazile, 70, in a house made from stones and clay, a building that could fall down in heavy rain. They said the temporary structure given to them had its roof torn off by winds whereafter they built the clay house.
One of the temporary structures was gutted by fire a few months ago, Tonga said. Siyabulela Dayimane, who lived there did not survive the fire. “Dayimane lived with his father before, but he died waiting for his house to be rebuilt.
“They were moved to a temporary structure after the roof of their RDP house collapsed in 2013.
“His house was supposed to be demolished and rebuilt a long time ago,” he said.
Tonga asked how it was possible for people to be made to live in temporary structures from 2013 to 2020 and still be considered temporary.
He believed Dayimane could have escaped the fire had it not been for the polystyrene material between the prefabricated wall material. “I want to know who approved the temporary structures. A person burnt to death.”
Tonga said he suspected the fire was caused by a candle as the place had no electricity.
He was also unhappy that the department neither visited or compensated the family for what had happened.
EC DHS spokesperson Masiza Mazizi said the temporary shelters were made from durable materials, such as fibre cement and insulation which resisted fire.
“Temporary shelters are given to all victims of disaster and destitute cases while the department plans building processes of permanent houses.
“The warranty for temporary shelters is five years, but structures normally last 10 years or more, depending on the usage,” Mazizi said.
In a normal environment where there is adequate budget for permanent structures, he said beneficiaries could stay for six months in temporary shelters before permanent structures are built.
Due to budgetary limitations in the department, the people have lived in the temporary structures beyond the expected period.
Other housing concerns mentioned by Tonga were that there were no renovation plans in the area except the unblocking of building and completion of outstanding works.
Mazizi said the delays in the project were exacerbated by lockdown regulations and Covid-19.
Responding to Tonga’s statement that no one was held accountable by the office of the public protector, national spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said the matter was closed last year on the grounds that the allegations were not substantiated.
“The complainant (Tonga) applied for an internal review of the decision to close the file. The review is now underway at head office (Pretoria) and a decision is pending.
“Complainants who are unhappy about the basis upon which their cases are closed due to unsubstantiated allegations can, in terms of the public protector rules, request a review of the decision from a higher authority internally.
“If the request is upheld, the matter is reinvestigated,” Segalwe stated.