The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality was warned last year by a former senior human settlements official that an abandoned RDP housing development site in Motherwell was a disaster waiting to happen.
That warning by Mandla George, proved prophetic on Tuesday, when a man died after a half-built structure collapsed on top of him as he was removing cement blocks from an incomplete house in NU29.
The housing project has been idle for nearly three years as the budget was depleted and there were concerns the homes had become structurally unsound.
It has since been targeted by vandals and vagrants.
The death of the as yet unidentified man, who was in his early 30s, follows the discovery last month by residents of the burnt body of a 14-year-old girl who had been raped and killed after a night out.
The George who was part of Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s intervention team in 2015, tasked with uprooting corruption in the department.
George, who now works for the Housing Development Agency, said he had given the municipality a report done by GIBB Engineering and Architecture which could have prevented what had happened.
Municipal spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki said the municipality preferred not to comment on George’s report because it was following due process as “mandated by the National Home Builders Registration Council [NHBRC]”.
“We cannot comment on [George’s] report because it wasn’t vetted or credited in as far as assessing danger is concerned.
“Unlike the NHBRC, we don’t know who vetted or approved his report,” Mniki said.
Executive director for human settlements in the Bay, Nolwandle Gqiba, said nothing could be done to rectify the structures or even demolish them until the NHBRC finalised its report on them.
“The decision about what happens to the Motherwell duplexes will be taken by the national Department of Human Settlements once the NHBRC finalises its assessment of those units,” Gqiba said.
But NHBRC spokesman Molebogeng Taunyane said the home builders’ council was not aware of any additional report due to the municipality and that a forensic engineering assessment had been conducted on the 162 units by engineers appointed by the NHBRC in December.
Taunyane said a report had been presented to the municipality in March.
“The report from the engineers did not find any structural defects and has not recommended demolition of the housing units,” he said.
“It is now incumbent upon the municipality to effect the recommendations in the report so that the houses may be ratified and occupied.”
Asked about Taunyane’s statement, Gqiba insisted the municipality was still waiting, as per a resolution, for the NHBRC to do a report on all individual units.
“This is a mandatory responsibility of the NHBRC,” she said.
Gqiba said the budget for rectification was 10% of the R600-million Human Settlements development grant allocated annually as per the Division of Revenue Act.
She said Nelson Mandela Bay had been given a budget of R130-million in this financial year to build housing. Any rectification needed would come from the 10% earmarked in the development grant.
In addition to the pending rectification of the NU29 Motherwell homes, there was an estimated backlog of about 85 000 RDP units to be built in the metro, Gqiba said.
Yesterday, angry Motherwell residents gathered at a field near where the accident occurred.
They called for Bay human settlements political head Nqaba Bhanga to demolish the houses which, they said, were a hazard.
ANC branch secretary Siphiwo Dayimani said Bhanga was not responding to calls or SMSes.
He said the residents were wanting to know from him what the municipality’s plans were for the dilapidated structures.
“We want him to hire people to demolish these things.”
Mniki said the municipality had sent its deepest condolences to the victim’s family.
He said it was unacceptable that a development meant to provide safe shelter “ended up as a death trap for the community”.