South Africa: Municipal Officials Suspended Amid Allegations of 'Selling RDP Houses'

Residents still living in shacks are billed for houses they have never seen

"I watched as they built houses for my neighbours while they skipped me and left me in a shack," says 86-year-old widow, Johanna Parsons.

Parsons was among a few residents in her community who claim they were excluded from a new RDP housing development built in 2007, in Cerutiville, Mackenzieville Extension 2 near Nigel.

She has been living in a shack for more than 20 years. Parsons, who lives with her granddaughter, says that before moving to Cerutiville, she rented a shack in someone's backyard. "People from the housing department told myself and my neighbours that RDP houses would be built in the area. I was excited. Contractors would tell me that my turn will come ... To my surprise I had to wait for a long time," she says.

For years, Parson had been receiving utility bills under her name and was required to pay it, despite making countless trips to the municipality to ask why she was being billed for a home she was not yet occupying. She paid some of the bills before they were eventually scrapped, she says.

"When l went to the office, the system showed that l had an RDP house. So if they did not build for me then who did they build for? l suspect some foul play," she says.

Parsons says she cannot do much for herself. When her granddaughter is at work, she struggles to go outside to fetch some water. The roof of their shack leaks when it rains and the zinc sheets are now rusty. She has had to pay people to build a toilet inside because she could no longer cope with having to go outside.

"Do l have to die before the government builds me a house?" she asks.

Parsons' neighbours, Babs and Francina Duber, have also been waiting for their house to be built. Babs is a pensioner and Francina runs a small vegetable stall outside their shack. The couple use an outside toilet and have a tap in their yard.

Duber says they too have been to the municipal offices many times where the system showed that they have an RDP house. "My shoes have worn out from walking to the municipal office. I have asked them to at least give me a title deed that they have not given us."

Duber claims that "some people say they paid bribes to have their houses built, while some of us who cannot afford to pay bribes were left out".

Ward Councillor Wollaston Labuschagne said he was aware of allegations that officials at the Nigel office for human settlements were selling houses. He confirmed that accused officials were suspended at the end of 2019.

"Cerutiville is an old farm which was basically demarcated under Mackenzieville Extension 2. The total number of 600 RDP houses were to be built [but the project is currently] at a standstill."

According to a response by the office of the MMC for Human Settlements in the monthly Ekurhuleni Municipal Question and Answer Paper, two officials were suspended but it's not clear why they were suspended. The Department stated that one was suspended on allegations of "financial mismanagement and insubordination" and the other on allegations of "financial misconduct."

It noted that the Mackenzieville Extension 2 housing project was to be completed by April 2021.

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