29 November 2018

South Africa: Getty Mrawuli, 70, Has Been Living in One Room for Most of Her Life

Residents of single rooms in hostels in Duncan Village, East London, say they have been waiting for houses for over 25 years and have lost hope of ever getting them.

The hostels in Sandile Street were built for single men working in factories around East London during apartheid. There are just over 70 units and over 350 people live in them.

In 2007, after a fire broke out, the municipality provided paint and renovated the damaged units.

Getty Mrawuli is 70 and lives with her sister in one of these small rooms. The space is their bedroom, kitchen and dining area. She moved in when her father was still living in the hostel.

"My sister is even planning on moving out and renting a shack in a backyard in Duncan Village. The space is so tiny," said Mrawuli.

She said she had applied for an RDP house in the 1980s and had received a letter telling her she would get a house. "It's close to 30 years now and I am still waiting for that house," she said.

"In 2016, I went to check again and my name was on the system. They never told me when and where my house will be available. Living in this tin is a pain. Even most of my children have passed away now. I raised them in this house. I am left with a son who is renting a shack himself. I just wish, before I die, I can leave him in a proper house," said Mrawuli.

Ntozinana Piyosei, her neighbour, is 85. "I have also lived in this one room for many years. I cannot even recall when exactly. We have changed several councillors in this ward, but we never got houses. Even children young enough to be my grandchildren have RDP houses in New Life and Reeston, but we are never lucky and we don't know why. Many people who moved to these structures with us many years ago have passed away," said Piyose.

"Others scattered in other areas of Duncan Village, and erected shacks there. Some have houses now, but not us. This room, the floor was breaking since it was made of wood and really bad. But my son bought cement and changed the flooring to look better," said Piyose.

Her son, Xolani Piyose, rents a property in New Life. He said, "My mother is alone in this house. I moved out since I couldn't have privacy in a one-room. It is so saddening, because even her health is deteriorating. Every new councillor that takes over this ward promises to move them to a better place, but it never happens."

Ntombizandile Mhlola, the portfolio head for human settlement in Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality (BCMM), said relocation of people from Duncan Village to RDP houses "has been stopped while the municipality is rectifying some issues."

"The national government is currently handling the issue of housing in BCMM. And currently we are working on a plan, but I can confirm that Duncan Village is a priority right now. Hopefully, the people who reside in those one-room structures will benefit in the next relocation. I cannot really say why they have been delayed to get housing," said Mhlola.

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