City to upgrade hostel

2018-10-22 16:08
Mnikezwa Msomi is one of the Imbali Hostel residents who will benefit from the upgrade project for the 39 properties.

Mnikezwa Msomi is one of the Imbali Hostel residents who will benefit from the upgrade project for the 39 properties. (Ian Carbutt)

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After years of living in dilapidated houses — some with no water or sanitation — residents of Imbali Hostel will finally have their homes refurbished by Msunduzi.

The project was recently approved by council for implementation along with eight other housing developments.

The hostel was built in the 1960s, and residents have constantly complained about its condition and having to share one toilet among more than a dozen homes. In the 1980s the government closed the hostels and since then some of the units were transferred to qualifying individuals.

In 2013 a forensic report implicated municipal housing officials, former ward councillors and some registered owners in the flouting of processes during some of the transfers. It was recommended that Msunduzi consider reversing the sale of some of the houses.

In a letter that was written by ward 19 councillor Caiphas Ndawonde in March, he said there were 39 houses that needed refurbishing as they had become “too dangerous for human occupancy”.

According to the report that came before council the project would be funded through grants from the Department of Human Settlements at R116 000 per unit. The family units would then be transferred to qualifying beneficiaries once the project is completed.

“The current condition of the hostel is terrible, the houses have dilapidated, there is no sanitation infrastructure and the living conditions pose a health risk to the occupants ...” read the motivation for the project.

Mnikezwa Msomi, who has lived at the hostel for more than a decade, said they have to use the bush for a toilet and get water from a tap about 200 metres away. Most of the walls in his home are cracked and there are several holes on the asbestos roof.

He told The Witness that some of his neighbours’ homes were worse as part of the roof or walls had collapsed.

“Most of us are unemployed, otherwise we would have moved elsewhere. It’s not nice having to stay up the whole night because it’s raining and you can’t sleep because of a leaking roof,” he said.

Another resident, Siyabonga Shezi, said they shared their toilet with three neighbours.

“If we had an option we would build our own toilet and fix up some of the things around the house but this is municipal property ... hopefully the City will start with the upgrades soon,” he said.

Nelisiwe Gumede said they hoped there would not be any delays on the project so that the properties could be transferred to them. “The last time [in the 1990s] there were talks of the transfers, things didn’t go as we had expected and we haven’t heard anything since,” she said.

Msunduzi tansfers properties

Council also approved the transfer of 10 properties on Newtown Road to the residents living there. Msunduzi held onto the properties following a proposal to build a major road system but that never materialised even though it remained part of the City’s comprehensive integrated plan.

“It is very difficult to put timeframes for the design of this future road as this depends on various variables including the availability of funds,” read a report by the City’s transportation planning manager, Lindelwa Mngenela.

However, financial implications might come up at a later stage to compensate the property owners when the municipality is ready to implement the road project.

DA councillor Naleni Naidoo, who brought a private member’s motion on the matter in 2013, welcomed the council’s decision. “These residents had been waiting for the transfer since before 1994, and despite numerous meetings with officials, all requests for transfer of the houses were denied, in favour of a bridge that was envisaged in that area.”

She said the proposed bridge had never been budgeted for and became even more problematic in light of the fact that the electricity department had built pylons over the site that was earmarked for the bridge.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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