R75 million for nothing

Thombi Shange (60), who was born in Mkondeni Sacca, stands outside the family home that she grew up in, carrying her two youngest grandchildren, Lebo (3) and Nqobile Shange (3), while her other grandchildren Mongezi (9), Aphelele (5) and Akwande (9) and daughter Nobuhle, stand beside them. PHOTO: ian carbutt
Thombi Shange (60), who was born in Mkondeni Sacca, stands outside the family home that she grew up in, carrying her two youngest grandchildren, Lebo (3) and Nqobile Shange (3), while her other grandchildren Mongezi (9), Aphelele (5) and Akwande (9) and daughter Nobuhle, stand beside them. PHOTO: ian carbutt

DESPITE the province paying out R75 million for land earmarked for municipal housing at Mkondeni as far back as 2012, the promised houses have not been delivered.

Six years after a court settlement saw the province pay up, residents at the informal Mkondeni Sacca settlement say they have been sent from pillar to post waiting for houses that are not forthcoming.

They are now threatening to march to Parliament as their pleas continue to fall on deaf ears.

Spokesperson for the provincial Department of Human Settlements (DHS), Mbulelo Baloyi, said the ball is in Msunduzi Municipality’s court.

He said the department had transferred the multi-million grant into the municipality’s account to buy the land in 2012.

“Msunduzi advertised a tender for building contractors early last year and from there we heard nothing.

“The end project was approved by the MEC a long time ago, dating back to 2012 with the court agreement and again in 2015 when he visited the residents.

“We are waiting on them [Msunduzi] to act,” Baloyi said.

The housing fiasco dates back to 2006, when the-then 1 065 “illegal occupants” took over privately owned industrial property at Shortt’s Retreat in Mkondeni.

After years of legal battles resulting from the land owners seeking the eviction of the informal settlers, the Department of Human Settlements came to the aid of Msunduzi Municipality and resolved to buy the land for the purpose of permanent residential development.

The court order and agreement happened with the DHS signing off R75 million to the City to buy 11 properties at Shortt’s Retreat in order to build permanent housing for the informal settlers living there.

Msunduzi spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said the city was in constant communication with ward councillor Sandy Lyne and the project steering committee elected by the community to represent them in all housing matters.

She added that the funding from province was never for the construction of services and houses but was for buying the land from private owners following the illegal occupation by the Sacca residents.

She said the land acquisition process was only completed at the end of 2016.

Mafumbatha said delays in the housing project thereafter were due to lack of sufficient land to accomodate more than 1 000 households.

The city, therefore, intended building a development that would cater for most of the residents.

She added: “During planning for the project it became clear that only 280 RDP houses could be built on the six hectares of land acquired and this process was going to require the entire community to be a housed off-site.”

As this was not a viable plan, the municipality invited tenders for densified interim housing which could be converted to permanent housing in the future to accommodate everyone currently living in Mkondeni Sacca.

She added that the concept had to be presented to the cabinet as there was a moratorium on the emergency housing subsidy to be used to build the housing units.

“This has been the main cause of delays to the project. There are, however, changes to the proposed concept of interim housing proposed [by province] and these are still under discussion between the department and municipality.

“Once a way forward has been reached, this will be communicated to the councillor and community of Mkondeni Sacca,” Mafumbatha said.

Community leader Mbuyiswa Gasela told The Witness that KZN Human Settlements MEC Ravi Pillay had promised them houses in 2015.

“We are tired now, there is no single department we haven’t been to inquiring about our houses, but no one gives us a straight answer. Our hopes were raised again when Msunduzi Municipality showed us a contract between them and the contractors who were supposed to start building in November last year,” he said.

Apparently the contractors told the community they had not received an invoice permitting them to start building.

• vuyelwa.mtolo@witness.co.za

MALUSI Shange (57), who was born in Mkondeni and now has children and grandchildren who were born there as well, said life was tough without proper shelter and services including water and electricity.

He said they do not have schools or a clinic in the area.

Shange said children have to walk more than 10 km to get to the nearest primary school in Ashburton. Others take taxis to Imbali.

“I knew this place before all these factories were built.

“Life was tough, but simple.

“We could manage without some facilities, but now, those facilities have become a necessity.

“The municipality does not listen to us when we ask for electricity, clinics, schools, roads and so forth, they only care about us when they are campaigning for votes, and we have had enough,” he said.

Lizzy Duna, a resident who has been living in Mkondeni for over 15 years, said not having a clinic was stressful as she has children.

“They only send us a mobile clinic twice a year and, if the weather is bad, the clinic does not come at all.

“When the clinic does come, they can only assist a number of people, and the rest are sent back,” she added. — The Witness

“We are waiting
on them [Msunduzi]
to act.”

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