Gogo Sibongile Mndebele struggled to get decent housing from government for more than 20 years, but on Friday she will finally be moving into her newly built home.
The 68-year-old from Winterveld in Pretoria says the mud house she built from the little she earned from doing piece jobs had been falling apart for more than 10 years.
“We were promised houses more than 15 years ago,” she says, adding that government officials went to Winterveld in 2003 and put a sticker on her door and promised that she and others would be getting houses.
“The sticker is still on the door of the grave I called a house,” she says.
“I have lived in that grave, praying that it does not cave in and lead me and my family to our final resting places. It was nothing but a disaster waiting to happen.”
Mndebele says that after heavy rains in December 2019 made the situation dire, she sought help from local government.
“People came and went, promising me to help me out but nothing came of it.”
She says that in July, with the Covid-19 coronavirus at its peak and the rainy spring season fast approaching, she remembered the promises made to her and went to local government offices to enquire.
“The same promises were made again and I was told to wait again,” recalls Mndebele.
Tired of hearing the same old story she decided to look for help elsewhere. She called talk radio station 702 to seek help. She told her story, hoping that someone listening would be able to lend a helping hand.
Someone did listen, it was Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.
Sisulu said she was listening in when she heard Mndebele saying that the minister of housing promised to build her a house.
“I didn’t remember making that promise,” Sisulu said.
After some clarification, it turned out Mndebele was confusing an official from the local government with the minister.
“After hearing Gog’ Mndebele’s plea for help I wanted to help her. I got in contact with people from my department and told them to see how they could help the family out.
“I am very happy to be here to hand over this house. I would like to thank the Gift of the Givers for donating the furniture. My office will be later delivering groceries to the family,” Sisulu said.
She also praised Mndebele for not giving up hope and fighting to get the promises made to her fulfilled.
“Thank you very much Mma Sibongile for your courage and forthrightness,” Sisulu said.
Mndebele will be moving into her house with her granddaughter, Kamogelo Mongatane, and four-year-old great-grandson who is disabled.
The 22-year-old Mongatane said the new home would take one worry off the load of the family’s troubles.
“Taking care of a child with a disability is challenging on its own. Doing it in the house that we lived in was just disheartening,” Mongatane said.
“I hope this is the beginning of good things to come for us. I have been struggling to get a job because I can’t find someone to take care of my child when I go job hunting.
“It was a challenge for my gogo to look after the child in that house. I think moving into a new house will make it less of a challenge and allow me to go out and look for employment,” Mongatane said.
Sisulu also welcomed 49-year-old Joshua Nkabinde and his family into a new home in Winterveld. Nkabinde and his six children had also been living in a derelict house for more than 20 years.
“I am happy that after years of waiting for government to deliver on the promises it made to me, it has finally delivered. I have been dealing with local government officials who seemed like they couldn’t care less, I am happy that the minister’s office finally delivered,” Nkabinde said.
He expressed gratitude for a home that accommodates the needs of his 23-year-old disabled son, who is in a wheelchair.