Shoddy block houses crumbling

2018-10-24 16:01
Sibusiso Zungu outside his house where one of the walls collapsed last year after failure to fix the cracks.

Sibusiso Zungu outside his house where one of the walls collapsed last year after failure to fix the cracks. (Ian Carbutt)

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The residents of Snathing, in Edendale, say their standard of living deteriorated when they moved from their mud houses to the “shoddy” cement block houses they were given by government.

Nompumelelo Mdlalose said the community was excited when their area was chosen to be one of the first in the country to get a housing project after the 1994 democratic elections.

Her family of eight then lived in a six-roomed mud house, which they had to demolish to make space for a new house.

She said while they were disappointed with the size of their two-roomed house, they overlooked that because they thought it was safer because it had block walls — even though they were not plastered.

“We’d never had a leaking roof so we were all gobsmacked when rivers started running down on the inside walls and water seeped from the floor the first time it rained after we moved in,” she said.

Mdlalose’s home and those of her neighbours had cracked walls and the water seeped through the walls as most houses had never been plastered.

The concrete aprons were also not built around the houses and down pipes were not installed to control the rainwater run-off from the roof. That led to rainwater pooling under the floor slab as well as around the house.

Nokwazi Zuma said over the years they have lost furniture worth thousands of rands which fell apart after being constantly exposed to water and mould.

“There’s no dignity in living in a house like this. When you look at it you are constantly reminded of your poor status and the fact that you don’t have money to build a proper shelter for yourself so you might as well be living in a shack,” she said.

Samke Mdlalose showing the cramped inside of the RDP house.  

Thoko Zuma said she feared that one day her house would collapse on top of her family while they slept.

“If I had money I would have demolished it and built a proper house instead because I can see that the government has no intention of fixing it. We’ve been pleading with Msunduzi for years but all our cries have fallen on deaf ears,” she said.

Apparently a team from Msunduzi visited the area to assess the extent of the defects in the late 1990s but they never returned.

“We’ve been raising the issue at every community meeting but our pleas are being ignored. The attitude we get is that we shouldn’t complain about the condition of the houses because we never paid for them so we should just shut up and be grateful,” said Samke Mdlalose.

Most households built pit toilets and stopped using the ones inside the house. They said the sewage backed up and spilled in their kitchens because the septic tanks had never been emptied.

“The septic tanks are about two metres wide and less than a metre deep. So you need to regularly empty them, especially when you have a big family like ours,” said Mdlalose.

Snathing resident Thoko Zuma unlocking her RDP house that has cracks in several walls. 

In the northern part of the township, another group of residents were also crying foul about the condition of the houses they received in 1996. The houses were also built on foundations that were constructed using a pad and lintel system, which resulted in wall cracks.

The majority of the houses had bricks on the roof to weigh down the iron sheets which lifted when it was windy.

Pensioner Dudu Jali said they also had a problem of water seeping through the bricks and floor when it rained.

“You can’t sleep when it’s raining because you have to constantly use the broom to push the water out of the house otherwise you might drown in your sleep,” she said.

Her neighbour Sibusiso Zungu told The Witness about how he struggled to fix the cracks on his house that had resulted in one of the walls collapsing last year. He put up rusty corrugated iron roof sheets but the contents inside the house were still exposed from the outside.

“I still sleep inside because I have nowhere else to sleep. What can one do when you don’t have any money?”

Snathing residents have had to build pit toilets as Msunduzi failed to send a honeysucker for their septic tanks.

Msunduzi spokesperson Ntobeko Ngcobo said a contractor that was appointed for a rectification project went into business rescue before work could start on site.

“According to the law, the organ of state cannot terminate a contract with a company that is under business rescue.

“The affected company has been under business rescue for over three years and that has caused delays on the project.

“At the moment we are not able to estimate a timeframes for when the project will start again,” she said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  housing

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