4 August 2017

South Africa: Mount Frere Residents Occupy Unfinished RDP Houses

Over 900 homes are yet to be completed three years after construction started

Some residents of Mbodleni Village in Mount Frere Cape have occupied unfinished houses after construction apparently came to a halt last year. The provincial government and the ward councillor gave conflicting accounts of what happened.

In 2014 Applewood Developers was awarded the tender to build about 1,000 houses. Three years later, only 49 have been completed and given to beneficiaries, leaving about 900 homes without walls, doors and windows.

According to ward 27 councillor, Nyameka Soldaat, construction was halted last year when the construction company ran out of money. She said the company had initially asked for R93,000 per house, but later changed the price to R135,000 per house.

Soldaat said that there had been problems with the construction company from the start with subcontractors complaining of not being paid. She said there has been ten different subcontractors working at the sites since 2014. "All of them complained of not being paid by the main contractor," she said.

Soldaat said that the matter was raised with the Alfred Nzo District Municipality. They were told to take their complaints to the provincial Department of Human Settlements, she said. "I heard that the construction company will resume again and more budget has been approved."

But Department of Human Settlements spokesperson Lwandile Sicwetsha said the contractor has not left the site but progress has been slow because of the difficult terrain and unrest. He said the project is spread over ten villages which are located within a radius of 15kms.

He also said that the contractor appointed sub-contractors and paid them. But they in turn appointed local sub-contractors whom they did not pay. "This resulted in protests by the local sub-contractors. This issue has been resolved. The affected parties agreed that all sub-contractors will be contracted to the main contractor," he said.

He said the contractor submitted a variation order which has been approved. However it is not clear if the company will meet the deadline of 30 September 2018.

Sicwetsha said this project value was R96,874,000.

Nomabhaca Nqwala, 54, is one of the beneficiaries who has moved into one of the unfinished houses. She uses cement blocks as a door at night which she has to move every morning. She also uses zinc sheets and cardboard where her windows were meant to be. She lives with her four children ages 36, 25, 20 and 17. She is unemployed and relies on a child support grant she gets for her 17-year-old. Her two eldest sons do piecemeal work.

She said that her family could no longer wait in a wet shack where they lived and decided to move to her unfinished RDP house. They have been living in the house since early this year. "At least this house has a roof and plastering inside. But it is very cold as the wind comes in through the windows," she said.

Nqwala son's, Andile said there hasn't been any proper explanation why the project was not completed. He said the company was last seen working on the site last year.

Residents in the area have asked an NGO called the Umanyano Lwabaphulaphuli Initiative to intervene in the matter. The organisation's Modi Maqabaza said that they have "hit a brick wall". He said they met with the Department two months ago. They were promised that houses were going to be built again."

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