SA quake victims forgotten by govt

2014-09-26 12:36
Dalton Melato's houses in the Khuma township near Orkney that was damaged when a 5.5 magnitude earthquake hit the area in August. His house is one of the many that have not been fixed despite government having promised to assist residents to rebuild

Dalton Melato's houses in the Khuma township near Orkney that was damaged when a 5.5 magnitude earthquake hit the area in August. His house is one of the many that have not been fixed despite government having promised to assist residents to rebuild

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Khuma - Following a recent 5.5 magnitude earthquake that left a trail of destruction in the township of Khuma near Orkney, North West, a frail 81-year-old man finds himself living alone in a house declared unsafe for occupation.

David Bohloko has no identity book and thus cannot receive a social grant, nor access other state benefits for people of his age. Compounding his problems, he has no immediate family.

The 5 August quake caused his house to become dislodged from its foundation. The walls cracked and an outside room was completely destroyed. Bohloko's only piece of furniture is a mattress on top of plant pots, which he sleeps on.

A young woman has made it her responsibility to look after him. Lucy Masangane and other locals reported Bohloko’s plight to government officials.

"We went to register him on the database of those affected by the earthquake so that he could get help, but nothing has been done," she says.

Bohloko apparently told to stay in house

Masangane says a meeting was held with the local mayor who apparently told Bohloko to continue living in the house, despite it being declared unsafe.

More than 600 houses were damaged during the earthquake. A 31-year-old man was killed and at least 34 miners were injured.

Government at the time said those affected would be helped. Severely damaged homes were declared unsafe for occupation. Some families were moved to a community centre.

People's names were taken and they were promised food parcels. Bohloko, to this day, has not received anything.

"There are people in the same street who received groceries but he was not given any," Masangane says.

"When we inquired, we were told they would look into the matter, but to this day nothing has been done for him."

Masangane is unemployed, but has been feeding Bohloko. She has decided to move into his house to be nearer to him in case he needs help.

"I make plans to get food so that I can cook for him," she said.

‘Govt has done nothing’

A street away from Bohloko is the home of Mmalehlogonolo Mosaei. Standing in the middle of her badly damaged house she remembers 5 August and the fan fair when government officials visited the area.

"They assessed our houses and said they were not safe for us to stay in. Government said they would help us to rebuild the house, but since then they have not come back to us," she says.

The unemployed mother of 10 says the family has been staying in a two-bedroom shack since the earthquake. She points to the cracks in the walls and says she lives in fear of the house falling down.

Some of her young children play near the house. She asks them to play further away from the unstable structure.

After registering her name on the database of those affected, she was optimistic that government would take care of her.

"[But] now we are hurting because they [government] are not telling us anything or giving us hope of when we would be assisted," she said.

The shack leaks when it rains. Some of the children share one bed while others sleep on the floor with her. Her biggest worry is crime.

"Living in the shack, we are always scared that criminals can break in as it will be very easy for them to remove one of the corrugated iron sheets. It is not a nice feeling," Mosaei says.

Were people on the list, asks Sassa

Just like Bohloko, she has had to watch as others around her receive groceries while she struggles to make ends meet. Her cupboards are empty except for a 10kg bag of mielie meal she bought on credit.

"We have not received help from the municipality or government, despite having given our details and explaining that no one is employed in the family," she says.

SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) North West spokesperson Smanga Selemeni on Tuesday told Sapa that after the quake information was collated on which families were affected and to what extent.

"This was used to determine who gets what... If we are not giving some families, probably they did not appear on the list. Also, the distribution of those food parcels is governed by the regulations of the Social Assistance Act."

In terms of the act, prospective beneficiaries need to submit information on their household income and whether anyone in the family receives a social grant.

"Other families could have been excluded as a result of those regulations," Selemeni said.

North West provincial government spokesperson Bonolo Mohlakoana says an assessment on the extent of the damage is complete, but a request for funding has not yet been sent to the National Disaster Management Centre.

Asked why it has taken so long for this to happen, Mohlakoana says there are not enough structural engineers to assess the houses. Also, the list of properties needing assessment keeps growing as people phone in to report damage.

"The assessment has been done. Now they are working on the cost implications, which we will send to the National Disaster Management Centre soon."

Read more on:    mahikeng  |  earthquakes  |  sa quake

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