Residents have to stay in shacks after state fails to pay contractors

Standoff between Housing Development Agency, Department of Human Settlements and contractors leaves Chatty residents with unfinished homes

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Photo of a family
Nomfusi Pitana with her family and gogo Maggie Sonjica in their shack. Photo: Joseph Chirume

About 300 housing beneficiaries in Chatty Extension, Port Elizabeth, are living in leaking shacks at the backs of their unfinished houses, after builders went on strike because they weren’t paid.

The Housing Development Agency (HDA), appointed by the Eastern Cape Department of Human Settlements, awarded the contract in 2015 to thirteen emerging contractors. Several downed tools in December, saying they had not been paid. Contractors have been toyi-toying outside the Agency’s Green Acres’ office on several occasions about non-payment.

Simpiwe Waka, spokesperson for the Chatty Extension Project, an organisation representing the disgruntled contractors, said, “Things have never been good from the start. The HDA pays builders late; at times, they don’t even bother to pay us … It is even worse now, because they have divided us. Some contractors are being paid, while others are left out.”

Waka said there were many workers who had not been paid since last year.

“We held numerous meetings seeking clarification from the officials, but all our efforts have been fruitless. We are just desperate because beneficiaries are putting pressure on us as they want to get into their houses,” said Waka.

GroundUp found a contractor (who refused to give his name or the name of the company) busy electrifying a house that had been finished. He said, “I don’t have problems with payment. I get paid for every job I do.”

But many houses are not plastered and have no doors or windows.

Resident Noxolo Ngoma said her family was among the first to be moved to Chatty, in September 2014, from Vastrap informal settlement in Booysens Park. They built temporary shacks, while waiting for their houses. They were overjoyed in 2015 when construction started on the first houses.

“I am now baffled to see that most houses around us have been completed and their beneficiaries have moved in, while we are still living in our shacks,” said Ngoma, who is unemployed. “My shack is not strong. It leaks heavily and is too small for myself and my two children.”

Her neighbour, Nomfusi Pitana, said she worries about her three children, because they are living in a one-roomed shack with seven adults.

“We are ten in our family, including my children. We have to squeeze together on the floor at night, and there is no privacy. We do not have money to build another shack, because we are all unemployed,” said Pitana.

The family depends on the state older person’s grant of their 72-year-old grandmother, Maggie Sonjica.

“Our shack is just horrible. Most of our furniture has been destroyed by wind and rain. Water also seeps through the walls of the shack,” said Pitana. She said they were plagued by mosquitoes and that scorpions came into the shack.

Spokesperson for the Housing Development Agency Zingaphi Matanzima blamed the Eastern Cape Department of Human Settlements for delayed payment.

“The Agency is working closely with the housing department to deal with issues that impact adversely on projects and has confidence that those will be resolved. The allegations of discrimination against certain segments of the contractors are untrue. The Agency is up to date with claims due in line with the contractual agreements.”

Asked about the non-payment of contractors, Eastern Cape Department of Human Settlement spokesperson Lwandile Sicwetsha, said, “Ask HDA about that because they recently confirmed that everything was okay. The project is managed by them.”

Photo of a shack

Noxolo Ngoma and her child outside their shack at the back of her unfinished house. Photo: Joseph Chirume

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TOPICS:  Housing

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