28 November 2017

South Africa: Municipality Accused of Corruption Opposes Audit

Photo: Nompendulo Ngubane/GroundUp
Picketers outside the Pietermaritzburg High Court chanted, “We want our houses back.”

The problem of local politicians allegedly unfairly profiting off RDP houses came to a head in Pietermaritzburg on Monday.

The High Court reserved judgement in a case where it is alleged that RDP houses allocated to needy residents have been given to ward committee members who then rent them out.

Judge Thoba Poyo-Dlwathi said she needs time in the case between Endumeni Municipality and Endumeni Civic Organisation. Beneficiaries of wards 4 and 5 in Dundee say RDP houses allocated to them in 2015 were given to other people. As a result, they are now forced to rent RDP houses. Some have built shacks for themselves as they have nowhere to stay.

Advocate Nkosikhona Gama for the plaintiffs said they want the municipality to conduct an audit. He also asked that the municipality set out in an affidavit what criteria were used when the houses were allocated and explain in detail and transparently how the placing was done and who was responsible.

Advocate Peter Blomkamp for the municipality said an audit would be enormously costly for the municipality. He suggested both parties conduct an investigation and the court grant 30 days for this.

Picketers outside the court, many of them elderly, chanted, "We want our houses back."

Sibongile Buthelezi, who applied for a house in 2014, claims her house was given to a member of the ANC. "I was told the ANC member is doing a good job in the ward. The ward committee members said houses must be given to devoted ANC members. That didn't sit well with me but I had no choice ... I'm hoping that the court favours us. People living in our houses must go," she said.

Mzwandile Masondo applied for a house in 2004 and 2014. But, he says, someone else moved into the house he was supposed to get. "When I asked how that happened [the municipality] was unable to tell me.

"I'm now renting and paying R500. I'm unemployed and only survive on a [social] grant. I want my house back. We are appealing to the court to do the right thing. The court should also hold those responsible accountable for their actions," said Masondo.

Thembelihle Ntombela said her mother died before her house was approved. She lives in a shack in Dundee with her five siblings. She said the house they were meant to get is now occupied by a man who has the same surname as her mother. "All we want is our house back. That is what we are appealing for," said Ntombela.

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