From homeless to proud home owners

2011-02-12 16:39

Rosina Malatji stayed in the family home while her brother was in jail, constantly worried that he would evict her when he was released.

Her worst fears were realised last year when her brother booted her and her three children out of their home in Ga-Mothiba Ngwanamago village, outside Polokwane.

The 28-year-old woman, who survives on child support grants, wound up in a backyard shack – but now the Limpopo local government and housing department has built her an RDP house.

“I now have peace of mind because my brother cannot follow me any more. If he does I will tell him this is my place, and report him to the family elders,” Malatji says.

In the nearby village of Ga-Maja Koppermyn, another man’s 30-year ordeal of having to share a one-roomed house with his wife and four children has also ended. January Mahlaola (61) is now the proud owner of a four-roomed RDP house.

Mahlaola lost his job as a general worker for Eskom in 1980 due to ill health.

“I could not afford building materials needed for a house. I tried, but failed,” he says.

“Now my children sleep comfortably and we can even ­afford to have sleep-over visitors.”

The department’s efforts to deliver houses and change the lives of people like Malatji and Mahlaola have not gone unnoticed.

Last month Human Settlements Minister ­Tokyo Sexwale gave the department an additional R131-million grant as a reward for having met its monthly and yearly delivery targets for low-cost houses in the province.

The money, part of the R14-billion grant Sexwale’s department distributed during the current financial year to provinces for low-cost houses and related projects, was redirected to provinces such as Limpopo from Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Free State because of poor performance and ­underspending in those provinces.

Limpopo housing spokesperson Tseng Diale attributes the recognition to the department’s hard work, commitment, shared purpose, a hands-on approach and decisive leadership.

“It is more about commitment. The Govan Mbeki Award (for best performing housing department in the country) we won in 2008 meant we were a team. When you are seen as a performer you cannot be complacent and you want to do even better,” Diale says.
In 2005 the department was largely building shoddy structures, had no records, paid contractors for work not done, had weak systems, mismanaged funds and took more than three months to pay contractors for work done.

Its project management capacity left a lot to be desired.

Since then the department has:
» Launched an internal housing call centre for people to report housing problems;

» Worked closely with the housing quality regulatory body, the National Home Builders’ Registration Council (NHBRC);

» Brought in external engineers and consultants to help its project managers;

» Cancelled the contracts of 42 underperforming contractors and blacklisted some of them;

» Employed project managers with technical skills at municipal level; and

» Beefed up its internal performance management systems for individual employees and ­contractors on site.

“Once that was done we were able to monitor the performance of individuals and ultimately the department as a whole.

“We have also strengthened our relationship with external stakeholders like the municipalities and the NHBRC by conducting joint inspections of the houses built,” ­Diale says.

The results are there for all to see. Since 1994 the department has built 259?245 houses at a rate of between 6 000 and 15 000 units a year.

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