GroundUp (Cape Town)

23 July 2014

South Africa: Makhaza's Shoddily Built Houses

Zone 14 residents in Makhaza are worried about the shoddy building of houses managed by the Niall Mellon Township Trust (NMTT). This has prompted the provincial Human Settlements Department to investigate after receiving numerous complaints.

Uneven bricks, wall cracks and messy plastering are just some of the obvious problems that can be seen on the unfinished houses.

The housing project is managed by the NMTT which works with the provincial government's People's Housing Process (PHP), where beneficiaries are actively involved in decision making about the housing process and make a contribution towards the building of their homes.The construction of 290 of these houses started last year in August, and 126 had been built by the end of June. Another 126 are scheduled to be built this year, with the remainder built in 2015.

Resident, Lumkile Sizile, whose house is still in the process of being built, said the sub-contractors were not professional. "There are spaces left in between bricks. The cement is all over the place and some of the bricks are not even touching the ground. My house is still being built and I am keeping a very close eye on how the work is being done. Some of the houses that have been completed look really good on the outside, but once you get inside the house, it's another story. The walls are not plastered, the roof leaks when it rains and it is just messy. I don't understand how professional builders can do such horrible work."

Sizile lodged a complaint about his own home after noticing that the work being done was below standard.

The NMTT is an Irish charity that builds houses in South Africa. Noeki Gous, country director of the Mellon Housing Initiative (MHI), which is the SA construction arm of the NMTT, confirmed that a formal complaint had been lodged on 10 July.

"During a site meeting on the evening of 15 July, Mr Lumkile Sizila and his neighbour attended the meeting and formally lodged their concerns. Prior to this meeting Mr Sizila spoke to our project manager and his complaints were attended to immediately. According to my understanding Mr Sizila however invited a newspaper to his house prior to raising his concern with MHI," said Gous in an email response.

GroundUp was taken to five different houses, and they all had similar problems, the most prominent being wall cracks. No contractors were on site while GroundUp was there. According to Gous, as part of the PHP, suppliers were requested to use sub-contractors living in the area to construct the houses to help create jobs in the community. Sub-contractors were expected to submit their CV to the project committee. Thereafter interviews were conducted.

Other residents also complained to GroundUp. One woman whose house was completed in December showed that her door was shorter than it should be, which caused flooding inside the house when it rained. Another resident showed us the huge hole in the side of her bath which was also mouldy.

"The Project Committee immediately addresses any concerns with MHI and these matters are always attended to as a matter of urgency. The leadership of the project - the committee - are on site every day and know that any complaints can be lodged and will be attended to immediately," said Gous.

Provincial Human Settlements Department's spokesperson Zalisile Mbali said complaints had been received about the poor construction of houses in Zone 14 and inspectors had been sent out to the site. He said he was expecting a report back from the inspectors before the end of this week.

Gous said, "I would like to mention that Mellon Housing Initiative has never turned their backs on a community and value each and every beneficiary. No company can profess to not making mistakes, we can however profess to rectifying them."

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