24 June 2019
Some residents of Walter Sisulu Informal Settlement in Mdantsane NU5, East London, have moved into unfinished RDP houses after the building site was abandoned by contractors in 2015.
Joyce Msethu was among the first people to move into the houses in May 2018. Msethu, who was a community leader, said she knew the number of the house she had been allocated.
“Almost every morning I would come here to check if everything was still in order. There was no word from the municipality on when the construction will resume. We got fed up of waiting,” she said.
She said she had little choice but to move into the house even though it was incomplete. Msethu said her husband was sick and he could no longer cope with living in their weathered shack, which became cold and damp when it rained. He died soon after they moved.
Residents told GroundUp not all the houses were occupied by the right beneficiaries.
Msethu was one of 154 families relocated in February 2015 to an open space to make way for the Mdantsane Cluster Two housing project. They were told it would take six months. But nearly five years later, the project remains incomplete.
GroundUp has previously reported on complaints by residents who expected to benefit from the project, that the vacant houses were being vandalised, and the properties used as hideouts for criminals and drug users. About 30 houses were built, but were without doors and windows. There were also several vacant plots with cement foundations with incomplete brick walls.
In 2014, Johannesburg-based company was awarded the R163.7 million tender to build 908 houses, of which 154 houses were going to be built in Walter Sisulu.
In September 2015, residents protested about the quality of the materials used for the houses. The protest was later joined by workers complaining about their wages.
“It’s been five years now and not a single house is finished,” Msethu said.
Last Wednesday, GroundUp found that most of the houses nearing completion had already been occupied. The houses are still without water, and residents have relied on illegal connections to electrify their homes.
Another former community leader Nosiviwe Booi said people were frustrated with the municipality’s lack of communication about the project. Booi said her house only had a cement foundation. Most people are still stuck in their shacks and this area is a wetland,” she said. “We only have one standpipe tap and are sharing two toilets. And we are using izinyoka [illegal] electricity,” said Booi.
A source in the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality’s housing department said the construction company’s contract was terminated in August 2018, because the company was not registered under National Home Builders Registration Council. Questions sent to the municipality’s spokesperson Bathandwa Diamond last week were not answered by the time of publication.
Ward councillor Mashwabada Gcilishe said the Mdantsane Cluster Two housing project has been surrounded with problems since it started in 2014. He said construction had not been completed for any of the eight informal settlements which were set to benefit from the project. He said contractors left Winnie Mandela site before any work even started.
In Gwentshe informal settlement in NU3, where 25 houses were supposed to be built, residents say the construction company came in 2014 to level the site for a day. “The area they levelled has grown grass ever since they left and never came back,” said resident Mabhayi Khapha.