South Africa: Kirkwood Residents Fume While Municipality and Province Blame Each Other for Lack of Housing

20 September 2019

I have never lived in a proper house, says Xoliswa Ntsilathana

The Sundays River Municipality and the Eastern Cape Human Settlements Department are blaming each other for the lack of new housing developments in the municipality, leaving residents fuming at delays.

In September 2014 hundreds of protesting residents torched the mayor's office and municipal offices in Moses Mabhida township in Kirkwood in September 2014.

The municipality claims that it is the responsibility of the provincial Department of Human Settlements to build houses. But the department says the municipality's failure to install infrastructure is delaying the construction of houses.

After the 2014 protests residents hoped that their living conditions would be improved.

But when GroundUp visited the area, residents said nothing has changed. They are still living in mud houses and shacks. Gravel roads are damaged and they are struggling with water and electricity.

Xoliswa Ntsilathana, 57, of Zone 4 township in Moses Mabhida told GroundUp: "I arrived here when Nelson Mandela visited Port Elizabeth just after being released from prison. On that day I was busy building this mud house and relocating from the farm."

"I never knew that today I still would be stuck in this crumbling mud house. It is very cold and leaking. When it rains the mud on the walls is washed away and water floods into my house."

"I have never lived in a proper house."

Ntsilathana said her yard was full of pit toilets that she had dug for herself and her two children and grandchildren. "When one is full I dig a new one. They stink because I have no chemicals to use in them," Ntsilathana said.

"Nothing is right here. We struggle with water to drink and the roads are terrible," Ntsilathana said. "Every time there are elections, political leaders come and promise us houses. After the elections we don't see them again."

Ntsilathana said she had applied for an RDP house "long ago" but the records had been destroyed when the municipal office in Moses Mabhida was burnt down in 2014.

"Then I went to municipal offices in Kirkwood town to check for my name on the waiting list. But I was told that my name was not on the list. I reapplied but nothing is being said about the development of houses," Ntsilathana said.

Lonwabo Five, a community leader and South African National Civic Organisation provincial executive member, said there was nothing in the municipality's plans about housing because there was no land available.

Municipal spokesperson Zusiphe Mtirara directed our questions to the provincial Department of Human Settlements.

But Masiza Mazizi, spokesperson for the MEC of Human Settlements Nonkqubela Pieters, said new RDP houses could not be built because of a lack of infrastructure.

"The challenge we have in the municipality is the unavailability of bulk infrastructure to support further housing development in the area, which is the responsibility of the municipality," he said.

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