6 August 2012

South Africa: Public Protector to Take De Aar Grievances to Provincial Government Leaders

press release

Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela will make sure the service delivery plight of De Aar residents in the Northern Cape reaches the ears of the Provincial Executive and Legislature when she meets provincial government top brass this week.

"We will make sure that all the issues brought our attention today reach them for their immediate action while we also try to find the truth for purposes of bringing relief to communities," she said on Monday at a public hearing on RDP houses and panel vans that are illegally converted into taxis in De Aar.

She said her investigation team would give priority to urgent cases such as those of older persons who said they were still waiting for houses they applied for more than a decade ago and those whose houses had allegedly been taken away by the municipality over unpaid electricity bills.

Within two weeks, the team would go back to the municipality on a case-by-case basis- and ask authorities to look at such matters with a view to establish whether there was any way they could assist her office resolve the matters immediately, the Public Protector said.

She was in the area and will be in the province until Wednesday as part of her Stakeholder Consultative Dialogue and Public Hearing, which puts a spotlight on the need to work together to end maladministration and ensure responsive service delivery. It focuses on problems plaguing RDP housing and alleged regulatory gaps regarding alleged illegal conversion of panel vans into taxis.

Among the key concerns raised by community members at the local hall was the dilemma of house applicants who switched provinces, people in possession of allocation letters yet their houses being occupied by others, data bases that incorrectly stated that people have houses, names that disappeared from waiting lists, the small size of the houses, long waiting periods for delivery of houses and houses not built to standard.

"What sticks out is there are provincial dimensions to this problem (of RDP housing). Here it is primarily the size of houses, which appears to be a Cape problem because we've heard of a similar problem in Eastern Cape," said the Public Protector.

The recurring problem of the futility of fixing structurally damaged houses came to the fore once again, with an elderly man complaining that his house was in a worse-off condition after a contractor "fixed" it.

"It boils down to the question of having a house that is structurally unsound and then wasting money asking people to come and fix it instead of really tearing down the whole structure and building it from square one," the Public Protector said.

Old houses, where the infrastructure had aged, resulting in the structures falling apart; the community of Spoornet that was that was promised resettlement and that they would be prioritised for RDP houses; and those who let their houses to foreign nationals for business purposes were some of the housing matters reported.

Community members also complained about lack of rural development, including lack of critical infrastructure such as bridges and inadequate farming support, allegations of the appointment of unqualified people to jobs and nepotism at the Emthanjeni Local Municipality and the availing of employment and tendering along racial lines.

Other service delivery issues raised included lack of medicine at the local hospital, and "homophobic" police, who "laughed" at an alleged sexual harassment victim when she reported her ordeal. The Public Protector moves to Kimberley where she will meet community leaders, government leaders, political parties and traditional authorities at the Provincial Legislature on Tuesday morning.

She will conclude her tour of the province on Wednesday with a meeting with the Provincial Executive and Parliamentarians on Wednesday at the same venue. The dialogue will next week explore Limpopo.

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