MEC after bad builders

2010-02-22 00:00

THE MEC for Human Settlement, Meggie Govender, said contractors who build sub-standard low- cost houses will be tracked down and made to put right their shoddy workmanship.

Govender was speaking last week after she The Witness alerted her about yet another housing project that does not meet basic standards in Wembezi A-Section, Estcourt.

The project, which was initiated between 2000 and 2001, cost the taxpayer about R17 million to build 504 houses at about R32 000 per unit.

The first contractor was taken off the job because he was from Queenstown and was replaced by a local one, who was also removed because of lack of progress in the completion of the job.

SROR Developers, a local contractor, was finally awarded the tender to build the RDP houses.

uMtshezi Local Municipality housing manager Fairoz Shaik disclosed that SROR is not registered with the National Home Builders’ Registration Council (NHBRC), which protects home owners by monitoring quality standards in the home building industry.

Shaik agreed that some of the houses did not meet the standard. He said the municipality is rectifying the problems.

Millions of rands have already been paid to the contractor, but Shaik would not state the exact amount.

“We have withheld a bulk of funds for the project until we find a proper solution for the defects. After complaints were lodged with us we sent out a team to assess the project. We are in the process of fixing the whole problem,” Shaik said.

The houses are poorly built, with defects from the foundations to the roofs. The plastic piping linking showers and toilet to the mains is leaking in some cases.

Shower heads hang askew and water squirts all over the wall.

The mortar between the bricks is so bad that water seeps through when it rains.

The recipient of a house who would like to remain anonymous said that in bad weather she becomes uneasy as there are cracks in the wall and when it rains the water seeps through.

“I’m grateful for the house, although I always pray in bad weather. People like me have no choice but to accept what is given to them by those in charge. When one complains about the condition, there are individuals who say we are anti-development.”

Democratic Alliance leaders clad in party T-shirts visited the area to listen to the complaints from residents.

As people gathered around explaining their plight to the DA leaders, a young man came along and started disrupting the gathering, accusing the DA of being opportunists.

He said there is no need for the party to be in the area as plans to fix the badly built houses are under way.

“You can’t just come in here and pretend to be caring for these people. Where were you when the construction started? Now you come here with the pretence that you care. We know you are here to canvass, so just get out of here.”

The Witness spoke to the man, but he refused to give his name or that of the party he represents.

Residents criticised him, saying they are tired of being used as pawns.

“We don’t care who comes in here. All we need is a voice that will push forward the process of fixing this mess,” said one resident.

MEC Govender said her department has a mammoth task of doing the right thing by those who have been given sub-standard houses.

She said a rectification programme has been adopted nationally whereby the government — provided that the contractor responsible for the building no longer exists — assesses the project and rectifies the problem.

Govender said that around 2003, registration with the NHBRC was not a requirement for tendering purposes, but after realising the risks this carries, every contractor dealing with low-cost houses has to register.

“To deal with this problem we work with the municipalities to identify the contractor who then is instructed to pay back the money paid for the services or rebuild the faulty houses. We will have stricter quality control measures to ensure that the work done is up to standard,” she said, adding the problems will be addressed urgenly.

Attempts to get hold of the contractor were unsuccessful.

DA’s spokesman for housing Tom Stokes said this was clear example of shoddy workmanship.

“At the heart of the problem lies lack of inspection by relevant professional stakeholders, a failure which result in people having to occupy unsafe structures. We appreciate that the manager is willing to work towards finding a solution to this,” Stokes said.

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