6 November 2017

South Africa: Ward Committee Members Accused of Renting Out People's RDP Houses

The Endumeni Civic Organisation in Dundee has taken the municipality to court claiming that RDP houses allocated to needy residents have been given to ward committee members who rent them out.

In an affidavit to the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg on 2 November, the organisation said beneficiaries of a 1,200 unit housing project launched in 2015 had been robbed off their constitutional right. Organisation chairperson Mzwakhe Sithebe said in an affidavit the houses should be returned to the beneficiaries.

Acting Endumeni municipal manager Thabani Biyela said in a responding affidavit that the allegations should be investigated. "If further investigation reveals misconduct by the municipal official, or councillor, necessary steps to invoke disciplinary action can be taken." Biyela said if there was evidence of fraud or bribes "the matter can be reported to the police"

Domestic worker Teresa Magudulela, 58, lives with nine children in a two-roomed shack in Lindelani, Dundee. She earns R1,800 a month. Her husband applied for a house in 2013 but died in 2015 before it was completed, she told GroundUp. She said ward committee members then refused to hand over her husband's house to her.

"I was told I can't get the house because my husband is dead. Instead, they took the house and gave it to someone else I don't even know. I live with nine children. Some of them are grown men and there is no privacy. The two rooms are too small for all of us," said Magudulela.

Phumlani Masimula from Sibongile township applied for an RDP house several times. His applications were rejected, but he was offered an RDP house to rent, he told GroundUp. A ward committee member told him he would have to pay R1,200 for a two-roomed house, and he should pay in cash.

He said he had later discovered that the house had been allocated to a woman who was living in a shack.

Mbulelo Baloyi, spokesperson for the department of Human Settlements, which has been cited as a respondent in the matter, said the department had launched a forensic investigation into the allocation process following numerous complaints. The findings had been presented to the Endumeni council, he said, for remedial action to be taken.

The hearing was adjourned to allow beneficiaries to collect further information. It will resume in March 2018.

The beneficiaries are represented by the Durban Legal Resources Centre.

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