An RDP home disaster

Occupants fear shoddily built houses collapsing on them

Nozithembiso and Thamsanqa Dube outside their shoddy RDP house
Nozithembiso and Thamsanqa Dube outside their shoddy RDP house
Image: Eugene Coetzee

For more than a decade, families in KwaNobuhle’s Area 9 and 10 have lived in conditions in which many people would not last a week.

Sleeping in homes with collapsing windows, crumbling walls and cracked floors, these people say they have pleaded with councillor after councillor in the hope that their lives would be changed for the better.

Nothing has changed. Nozithembiso Dube, 54, received her RDP house in 2004.

Thamsanqa Dube shows a massive crack running along the foundation and the wall of his living room
Thamsanqa Dube shows a massive crack running along the foundation and the wall of his living room
Image: Eugene Coetzee

She noticed immediately that although it was meant to be a new, brick house, the floor was so badly done that her husband had to redo it.

“Our windows keep falling out because the wooden frames give in,” Dube said.

“The foundation was built wrong and we’re scared every time we have strong winds because it feels like this house could collapse on us while we’re sleeping.”

A wall of Dube’s house is covered in cracks so deep that if you are standing inside her living room, you can clearly see outside.

Dube is one of about 36 000 Bay residents eagerly awaiting their turn to have their RDP homes rectified.

Since government policy dictates that only 10% of the budget for housing development can be used to rectify houses, the wait is expected to be a long one.

On average, between 200 and 300 houses are rectified annually in the metro.

Mzamo Magugu, 54, from a section of KwaNobuhle known as Duduza, said he had been crying at the doors of councillor upon councillor about the condition of his home. He said Duduza had been one of the first areas in KwaNobuhle to receive RDP houses, but instead of this bringing joy, he felt they were forced to live in death traps.

“We’ve had big problems here but it doesn’t seem like they’re going to solve them anytime soon,” he said.

Magugu’s house has deep cracks all the way from the ceiling to the floor, causing the windows to constantly collapse.

He said he had replaced his windows multiple times but sometimes did not have the money to do so.

Lilitha Coko’s house was torn down with the promise that it would be rebuilt from scratch. That was three years ago. Coko, 53, lives with her husband and two daughters in a temporary structure provided by the municipality.

She said her family had been meant to live in the cottage only for about six months while contractors worked on restoring her home.
“This is the third year we’re living like this. Every time it rains, water runs down the walls of this place and we’re cold and we don’t even have a toilet here,” she said.

Lilitha Coko outside her RDP house that turned to be a disaster
Lilitha Coko outside her RDP house that turned to be a disaster
Image: Eugene Coetzee

Thamsanqa Dube, 58, said it seemed as if the only time politicians cared for them or even paid them any attention was when they were canvassing for votes.

Dube said his house was not built on a proper foundation, causing cracks throughout.

The floor of the entire house is uneven and as you move from one end of the house to the other, the passage narrows.

Nonkosi Mbangi, from Area 9, said contractors had shown up at her house ready to start fixing it, but when they saw that it was bigger than the legislated 40m², they said that it would have to made smaller. Mbangi refused to allow this. Her house was built at 50m² years before it became policy of the Department of Human Settlements that all houses be built at 40m².

“I said I don’t want my house reduced in size,” she said.

“We’re being abused here because if the government knew they don’t do rectification for houses more than 40m², why build them that big in the first place?”

Mbangi suggested that before the houses are fixed, officials from the Department of Human Settlements sit down with residents and explain what to expect.

Provincial housing boss Gaster Sharpley said the department planned to rectify only 1 000 houses across the province in the next financial year.

“We can only use 10% of the budget in a financial year [to fix houses] which means 10% of Nelson Mandela Bay’s allocation will fix the houses there,” he said.

Sharpley said the metro’s housing allocation in the current financial year was R303-million and the money for rectification was R34-million.

“Rectification has been stopped because we’re saying that you can’t take money for a beneficiary who doesn’t have a house and go and repair for a beneficiary who has a house.

“We’re saying rectification is a duplication of a service.

“But we do understand that some of the houses that need rectification are life and death as they are unsafe and they need to be done.”

Sharpley admitted some homes needed to be rectified and others demolished due to the state they were in.