19 October 2020
Ave Seymour, 66, from Mlungisi township in Stutterheim, Eastern Cape, first applied for a RDP house 24 years ago.
She says her application was approved in 1998 and construction on the houses began three years later in 2001. She was meant to receive a one-room house but the structure was never built, only the foundation was set, she says.
When GroundUp visited Seymour a few weeks ago, there were about 20 sites in the area which were incomplete with nothing but cement foundations. Most residents in the area live in mud houses while some, like Seymour, live in zinc and wood shacks.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve been told that the [human settlements] department will come back to finish building our houses. I was in my 40s then. Now I’m old,” she said.
According to Masiza Mazizi, spokesperson for the Eastern Cape MEC for Human Settlement, the expected construction of 500 homes in Mlungisi was one of the first projects in Stutterheim. It involved five emerging builders who were appointed to construct 100 houses each in February 2001.
Each house had a subsidy of R9,647. Mazizi said only 280 of the 500 units were built at a cost of R2.7 million despite the total project budget of R4.8 million.
He said due to slow progress and inflation on the subsidy amounts, the contracts of all five contractors were terminated in March 2006.
Mazizi said another problem was that in order for the houses to be completed, the title deed needed to be registered in the name of the original beneficiary. And by the time the houses were being built, many of them had been sold to other people. Many of the new owners did not fit the qualifying criteria, he said.
This, however, was not the case for Seymour. Her house was simply not completed by the time the contractors left the site in 2006. It is also unclear whether the department plans to complete the construction of the plots.
In 2018, the department approved two other projects nearby. The housing project were started after residents staged several protests outside the department’s offices in 2016 and 2017.
According to the residents, the two projects, Ncenyulands 692 and Ncenyu Village 450, were meant to start in August 2019, but did not. In January 2020, a contractor began digging the foundations and has not returned.
Community leader Pumlani Lakudala said the lack of houses in Stutterheim coupled with contractors leaving sites incomplete was dividing the community.
“In Mlungisi Mbulelo Ndodo location, more than 200 houses were left unfinished. Even before the [Cenyulands] projects were approved. We had to march to the department several times. People donated R10 each so we hired taxis to march for houses. Some of the people in this project applied for a RDP house 22 years ago but are still waiting,” said Lakudala.
“People are very frustrated because they are aware that there are unfinished houses in Mbulelo Ndondo, and with these delays they are scared that we will continue to wait,” he said.
But Mazizi said contractors have since been appointed for both projects. Mazizi blamed recent delays on Covid-19 lockdown.
He said that combined, the projects are expected to deliver 1,142 housing units, and had a budget of R168 million.