Disaster highlights poor building standards

2018-01-07 06:12
A tent is erected as a temporary shelter for a family in Glen Ridge, Soweto, that lost their home after it collapsed during a heavy hailstorm on December 30. Picture: Tebogo Letsie

A tent is erected as a temporary shelter for a family in Glen Ridge, Soweto, that lost their home after it collapsed during a heavy hailstorm on December 30. Picture: Tebogo Letsie

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WATCH: Destruction as JHB is lashed by hail, rain and strong winds

2017-10-09 18:07

A severe thunderstorm wreaked havoc in parts of Johannesburg on Monday. Watch. WATCH

The severe hailstorm and strong winds which wreaked havoc in parts of Johannesburg and claimed two lives last weekend have left people doubting the capacity of government’s housing agency to enforce proper construction standards.

Residents of Protea Glen, Soweto, even waged street protests this week to highlight their plight and urge government to intervene.

On Friday Herman Mashaba, Johannesburg Mayor took the decision that the city must be declared a local state of disaster, after extensive stakeholder consultations and considering the damage.

Mashaba says it has been clear from the beginning that because of the damage caused by the storm, the city would not be able to address the needs of all those affected.

“Indeed, to date, 3 152 households were affected by the storm.

"Based on on-going inspections and evaluations, damages to the properties throughout the City are currently estimated to be close to R186.5m,” he said adding the number is expected to rise.

An urgent call from a concerned neighbour alerted Nduleni Nekokwane, his wife and three children to the crisis. After being informed that his house was ruined, Nekokwane cut the family holiday short.

He drove back all the way from Venda in Limpopo to his Soweto home in Protea Glen Extension 31, to discover the house in a ravaged state.

Nekokwane told City Press that, initially, he believed there had been a burglary when his neighbour sent him a message.

But once images of his damaged house arrived via WhatsApp and told him a different story, the reality sank in.

“The roof, windows and folding doors were damaged. I understand that this was a natural disaster, but the quality of the cosmopolitan houses is not good,” he said, adding that the government needed to step in.

“This disaster has messed up my life, and my children are also not in a good space. But as parents, my wife and I need to be strong for them. I spent a lot of money on this house.”

Fortunately for Nekokwane, he has a second property, which has enabled him to provide alternative accommodation for his family.

He said his destroyed house was insured and that the insurance company’s response so far was giving him hope.

However, Hendrietta Maribe from Glen Ridge Extention 16 said she was shaken to find her house ruined by the storm when she returned from a week-long holiday spent in her home province, Limpopo.

“Fortunately, it happened in our absence,” she said, adding that she found herself in a hopeless situation.

Maribe said five of her relatives had come to Johannesburg to lend their support during this difficult time. “All I want is for someone to help me rebuild my house,” said a desperate Maribe.

On Thursday, a representative of the National Home Builders’ Registration Council (NHBRC) told City Press that it had dispatched a team, consisting of engineering and home inspectors, to assess the damage and make recommendations with regard to assisting those affected in rebuilding their homes.

The NHBRC is an agency of the department of human settlements, and is responsible for protecting homeowners from shoddy workmanship and regulating the building industry.

Shafeeq Abrahams, the acting chief executive of the NHBRC, said he had visited the community of Protea Glen and assured them that his organisation would be assessing the extent of the damage to people’s houses and present a report by the end of the week, which would include an assessment of the standard of construction.

“Firstly, we wish to convey our profound condolences to the families who lost their loved ones during this natural disaster,” he said.

“We will be working closely with all relevant spheres of government and affected communities to find collective solutions to alleviate the situation. These assessments will start immediately, with a team of engineers and home inspectors already dispatched to the affected areas.”

Abrahams added that their work would focus on a number of issues, including the types and quality of building materials used to construct the homes, the registration status of home builders and developers, and adherence to the country’s inspection processes.

“Should we discover any wrongdoing from our employees and home builders, we will not hesitate to take appropriate remedial action and bring those in the wrong to account,” he said.

“As an added measure, we will dispatch our mobile office to the Protea Glen area in order to bring our service closer to the affected communities,” said Abrahams.

- The NHBRC urges affected homeowners to lodge complaints by downloading relevant forms from its website (nhbrc.org.za), or by calling 0800 200 824 or 011 317 0440 for assistance.

Read more on:    herman mashaba  |  housing

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