Answer to a question from a reader

I am disabled and my house is crumbling. What can I do?

The short answer

The municipality should help you, but you may have better luck contacting a humanitarian organisation.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

I contracted intestinal TB and it affected my spine. I now live in a wheelchair. The foundations of the house I am living in, which was built by my father, have started collapsing. There is a big crack and I think the room will eventually collapse with me inside and I will have no way to save myself. What can I do?

The long answer

Thank you for your email asking how you as a disabled person can get help to repair the house you live in whose foundation has partially collapsed and a big crack has developed inside the house.

In theory, you should get help from the eThekwini Municipality as you are living in a dangerous situation, and are disabled.

This is the government definition of emergency housing circumstances:

“This Programme will apply to emergency situations of exceptional housing need, such situations being referred to as ‘Emergencies’, as defined below: An emergency exists when the MEC, on application by a municipality and or the PD, agrees that persons affected owing to situations beyond their control: a) Have become homeless as a result of a declared state of disaster, where assistance is required, including cases where initial remedial measures have been taken in terms of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (Act No. 57 of 2002) by government, to alleviate the immediate crisis situation; b) Have become homeless as a result of a situation which is not declared as a disaster, but destitution is caused by extraordinary occurrences such as floods, strong winds, severe rainstorms and/or hail, snow, devastating fires, earthquakes and/or sinkholes or large disastrous industrial incidents; c) Live in dangerous conditions such as on land being prone to dangerous flooding, or land which is dolomitic, undermined at shallow depth, or prone to sinkholes and who require emergency assistance.”

These are the municipality’s contact details:

Email: (link sends email)

Tel: 031 311 1111

Even though the municipality is not known for its effectiveness and has in fact been named as the fourth most corrupt municipality in South Africa in a 2020 report by Corruption Watch, you should certainly contact them and ask them to help you.

But perhaps you should also try to see if there are any local charities, community organisations and church groups that might be able to organise a working party to repair your house. In many communities, traditionally, you could approach a chief or community leader and ask them to mobilise resources from the community to help you. A skilled person or two assisted by some willing helpers could perhaps be organised to help repair your house, and perhaps a church group could prepare a meal for the workers to share when the job is done. 

There is also the famously helpful organisation, Gift of the Givers, which has done so much to assist communities and individuals all over the country.

You could contact them and ask if there is any help they could give you.

These are their details:  

Toll-free Number: 0800 786 911


Wishing you the best,

Answered on Nov. 26, 2021, 3:24 p.m.

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