No sign of promised homes as Zuma opens dam for which workers were moved

2013-12-01 06:01

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More than 30 farm worker families removed to make way for the Spring Grove Dam near Rosetta in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands – opened with much fanfare by President Jacob Zuma this month – are still living in temporary accommodation nearly a year after they were meant to receive new homes.

The workers, who lost their jobs when the farms they lived on were sold, were also promised construction jobs and a relocation stipend of R10 000 each, but have not received them, despite the completion of the dam, which cost them their livelihood.

A planned imbizo on the day Zuma opened the R1 billion facility – had to be called off as government officials were afraid that angry community members, tired of broken promises, would embarrass the head of state.

Instead, Zuma gave a short speech at the opening of the dam during a truncated programme with edgy security staff keeping a very close eye on the relocated workers, some of whom were bused in for the event.

The families, who were workers on four Rosetta farms earmarked for partial expropriation to accommodate the dam were moved in December 2011 by the Trans Caledonian Tunnel Authority (TCTA), a state-owned implementing agency responsible for its construction.

They were moved to a smallholding on the road between Greytown and Mooi River, where they have been accommodated in farmhouses and converted stables.

When City Press visited the smallholding this week, residents were angry both at being “dumped” at the new site and at government’s inability to deliver on its promises to them.

“This is not right,” said Goodman Msomi, a father of four whose family have been reduced to surviving off his wife’s earnings as a farm worker for the past year.

“This dam was planned nearly 20 years ago. The plan was approved in 2009. They have been able to build this dam which cost so much money and took so much time but they can’t give us the houses we were promised. Something is wrong here,” he said.

Msomi (39) said when his family were moved in December last year, they were told work would start on building their houses in January this year.

“We were told we would be given work building our houses and on a pipeline. We were also told we would get R10 000 each and a house valued at R100 000 by TCTA. We got payments the same as our wages for six months and nothing after that,” said Msomi.

“Now they are telling us that we will start building in January. We don’t believe them any more.

“There are problems with electricity and water here but we don’t know who to go to. We are tired of waiting,” he said.

Thulani Mabuyakhulu (44), a father of five, now survives off his wife’s wages on a farm near Estcourt. His family has two rooms and a kitchen in which they live.

Mabuyakhulu, who was born on the farm River Home and lived there till it was sold, told City Press his transport costs for his children to get to school had increased from R450 to R750 after they were moved.

“Things are very tough here. We pay far more for school transport. I got wages for six months after we moved and that was all. I get piece jobs one or two days a week and that’s all. We were promised jobs but there is nothing,” he said.

Department of water affairs officials told City Press a team had been sent to visit the families ahead of the planned imbizo.

“There were concerns that the families might ask embarrassing questions at the imbizo in front of the president. We were under the impression that one would be held on opening day. Thereafter the imbizo was cancelled,” said an official who asked not to be named.”

TCTA official Kogi Govender said an application for rezoning of the smallholding for residential use was only submitted to the Mpofana Municipality, under which it falls, in July this year.

“The application is still receiving attention by the municipality. Construction of the homes can only commence once the rezoning has been approved,” Govender said.

She said that while a record of decision for the dam had been received in 2009, a successful appeal against the project in September 2010 and a wait for environmental approval delayed its implementation.

Govender said the TCTA would make the R10 000 payments, along with any loss of income from standing crops when they were moved, “once the families have moved into their homes”.

She added that the landowner had refused to relocate the workers and bill the TCTA for this. “Therefore TCTA had to re-strategise and manage the issue. Other landowners have sourced or constructed houses for their occupants and submitted claims to TCTA for payment.”

Govender said five of 38 relocated families had chosen to live elsewhere. Some were given training and temporary jobs on the dam and would be given first preference during the construction of a “water transfer system” next year.

She said the houses would “hopefully” be built next year once the rezoning had been approved.

“Suitable housing, although temporary, has been provided,” Govender said.

Spokespersons for the department of water affairs, the Mpofana Municipality and the Mtshezi Municipality all failed to respond to questions from City Press at the time of writing.

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