Demanding death

30 05 2008

by Leila Dougan

The entrance to her funeral parlour boasts monthly deals in the same manner a local coffee shop would advertise their daily specials. Ronel Mostert is preparing for the season of death, winter, which she says is her busiest time.

Deaths tend to increase in winter due to the colder climate, affecting weaker immune systems which often leads to death. Owners of funeral parlours are aware of this business opportunity and prepare by stocking up on coffins, gravestones and flowers. Read the rest of this entry »

What Programme ?

30 05 2008

By Nqobile Shoba

The Reconstruction and Devleopment programme was implemented by the ANC almost fourteen years ago. The programme was put in place in order to aid the poorest of the poor. According to the ANC’s Reconstruction and development programme monitor website

The RDP is a plan to address the many social and economic problems facing our country – problems such as…

  • violence
  • Iack of housing
  • Iack of jobs
  • inadequate education and health care
  • Iack of democracy
  • a failing economy.

However like many of the programmes put in place by our beloved government it has dismally failed. Besides the fact that almost half the houses that it builds for our poverty stricken South Africa are dismal, dispicably put together pieces of somewhat thrown together architecture, they have become no more than just money making schemes for poor and rich alike. I guess the question on everybody’s mind right now is ” What the hell is she talking about?” Well it is common knowledge, and by common knowledge I mean to the gossip mongers/ local church going folk in the townships, and the local governement in any city or town in South Africa that these so called RDP houses for the poor are given and awarded to those who have connections within the local governement. This is despite the fact that there are individuals who have been waiting on the list for more than ten years, to get ann RDP house.

Whilst covering a television news story in Vukani , Grahamstown about the renting out of these houses, I met a few individuals who had been waiting for ten years or more. In fact these were the individuals who were forced to rent out the RDP houses from local fat cats keen to pocket extra money from the poor. If not the fat cats it’s the local people from the townships themselves who somehow strike a connection with the local municipality, or its councilors and mange to own more than two houses in two different township areas, to only spend the profits they gain on alcohol or running a shebeen anyway.

The problem here is that no one takes the blame for what is clearly a system riddled with corruption. When one asks the local municipality about the awarding of RDP houses we are only told that they are not responsible for the awarding of houses and we should speak to the construction companies in charge ,The ANC has its promises. Free housing was one of them. I’m still baffled by the fact that people have waited this long for such a basic need.

used to complain about squatter camps but what else are the poor to do. If you can not afford rent, been waiting for more than ten years for a house, why not but build one? I think that is real vision and courage. So the rich get richer whilst the poor as they say get poorer . So as I switch off my bedroom light in my furnished home , slip into my warm bed I realize how lucky I am to have four sturdy cement walls  to shelter me. Paying for a free house? I don’t get it.

Safety in Numbers

29 05 2008

By Karen Thome

I’ve always felt pretty safe in this country. Maybe it’s because I have always had the “it can’t happen to me” attitude, and so far “it” hasn’t, so why should I worry, right? Well, now I am worried. After living in South Africa for my whole life, I am finally worried. Now I can actually understand why people are willing to sacrifice the sunshine of S.A for the safety of another continent.

I was speaking to local Grahamstown inspector, Milanda Coetzee the other day, and she told me that there is a mere one policeman to every 570 people in Grahamstown. That is scary. She also informed me that when a case is reported the police investigate it for 24 hours, and if no suspect turns up, or if there’s not enough evidence, the case is put on file where it remains untouched- basically it’s scrapped. The shock doesn’t even end here though! Did you know that the police are so under- staffed that they are forced to prioritise specific crimes only if they have become a trend in a particular area. So basically, if your friend is murdered, but he is the only one for the month in his area, then his case isn’t seen as a priority, and the criminals will more than likely not be convicted. Inspector Coetzee put it in a very nice way when she said, “it’s not like Law and Order, or CSI where they spend months on a single case, and each murder is a priority, I wish it was. But it’s just not.”

The fact of the matter is that police can’t afford to value the individual. I was doing a story on a small pre- school which has been broken into seven times in fourteen months. The children of this school have had their mattresses, food, toys, tables, books, plates, spoons, oven and fridge taken from them! And guess what, not a thing has been done about it. The suspects from the first burglary were released without bail because the next court date they could get was over a year later. There’s just too much crime, and not enough court time.

I asked inspector Coetzee what she thought people could do to help the situation. She obviously was against people taking the law into their own hands, as this often gets the victim into more trouble than the criminal. She instead suggested that people report any criminal activity they are aware of so that police can see where the trends are and target the problem. But, once again, where does this leave the individual? Are people supposed to wait until their whole area is flooded with crime before any justice can take place?




Housing in SA

27 05 2008


By Dada Lubabalo

 The department of housing hopes  to eradicate informal houses by the end of 2014 and replace them with RDP houses. This seems like a good idea, but I just wonder if this will be possible to achieve since there have been problems with underspending. If we look at Eastern Cape for instance, the department of housing was allocated more than I billion rand but the department failed to spend that money.  The National department of housing took 500 million from the province and gave it to other provinces that know how to spend money.

I don’t understand why the housing department is underspending because there are people that still need houses, but the department failed to reach out to those people. For instance, in Grahamstown there are still some ghetto areas; there is a place called Endlovini in extension seven. There is no electricity in that area and no flushing toilets.Makana is just building houses next to the national road .Even some of this house are in poor conditions; they don’t have ceilings and they are cracking. They are just like ghettos because when it’s cold people have to sleep wearing clothes. So what is the difference between these houses and Ghettos? To me there is no difference at all because when it is raining people have to move around the house to look for a place that is not leaking. I don’t think that houses should be like this.

It is clear that it’s not that the province does not have enough funds to build proper hoses. The money is there, but those who are supposed to deliver are not doing their job properly.  Maybe it’s high time that we as citizens stand up and call upon the Premier to suck those who are not performing. I am quite certain that our honourable Premier won’t think twice about it because she is good at dismissing people that are not doing their job.

The Eastern Cape is leading when it comes to poor expenditure, followed by Limpopo and Free State.  All of the above mentioned provinces spent less than a half of what they were allocated. What does this say about our leaders? Well I guess the answer to this question is simple. They are just not capable of doing their job.

Funeral homes are in high demand

27 05 2008


by Syanda Ngcobo

The increases of funeral home in Grahamstown, does mean there are more deaths than elsewhere. Grahamstown is a small town with about 150 000 population This small town have more than ten funeral parlours and the 11th one is coming soon. The most question that comes to the minds of  journalists, is Grahamstown experience more deaths than any town in South Africa?

 One of the owners of Funeral parlours says Grahamstown experience more deaths during winter season. She says there are more deaths in winter because people especially this time of the year poor and old people tend to die more because they lack heater and do not have proper nutrition and no proper shelter. Old people die because of cold weather while young ones die because of HIV/AIDS. Some young people kill one another when there are drunk. This is not a phenomenon problem facing Grahamstown citizens only, but is threat for the whole South Africa  No one can argue that many people are not dying because of HIV/AIDS.

 One may say that lose for another is the benefit for the other person, it is a zero sum game, because the more people die the more funeral parlour making tons of money. On the other side the poor residents have to go to banks and cash loans to borrow money to cover funeral expenses. One of the funeral parlours directors said that when more people dying he make good money. People would come buy coffins, hire hearse, bus (sometimes) thumb stone. The industry is very busy in Grahamstown,

Some people believes that its about time to go back to their olden ways of burying their loved ones. One of the Grahamstown residents says it was much better during time of Makana because people were covered with cow’s skins, or old blankets, but today funeral has become a form of a party or something. If you do not have money to make a funeral to be on the standard you become a laughing stock to the whole community. So, if you do not have money you have to go and borrow it, but at the end you end up left with nothing to eat.

 Some Grahamtowns citizens do not like to hear the idea about new funeral service that has been build. They use our death, pain and suffering to rich themselves. One of the resident even said these people have something to do with growth of death in their town. Why do we have lot of funeral parlours and they make them feel uncomfortable especial the ones that are build in the townships

However the directors of these funeral homes do not only give customers what they have paid for, but they also offer emotional support to mourning families.


Kha Ri Gude: Hope for illiterate pensioners

26 05 2008


Our Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor has set up a new campaign to address adult illiteracy in South Africa, namely Kha Ri Gude. It has recently been implemented in Grahamstown and it is the first initiative to show potential success in this decade.

Previous adult education programmes such as the South African National Literacy (SANLI) have failed dismally. According to the National Adult Learning Network Conference (2002), this was mainly due to:”The vacuum that exists in the adult education and training sector as a result of the demise of previous networks;and the lack of co-ordination, synergy and unity of purpose which has resulted in a fragmented sector.” The resignation of adult-education expert John Aitchison in 2007 sparked rigorous debate about the future of adult education in South Africa.

Although Kha ri Gude is only in its initial stages, it has however seen local success. The project was implemented in Grahamstown in February and the one of the educators, Thembeka Seyzi says that she can already see a positive change in the eagerness of the learners. The difference between Kha ri Gude and previous projects is the extent of research on which it is based upon. The ministerial committee on literacy (MCL) visited adult education centres in New Zealand, Venezuela and Cuba. (Mail and Guardian Online article: an ABC plan to reach XYZ)

Nombeko Kepe, the Project Co-ordinator for the Grahamstown District predicts that the project will not only be a success in the field of creating employment opportunities, but will also help in combatting pension fraud. “Many pensioners struggle with using an ATM or opening a bank account. If they can read or write, they will no longer be dependent on family members to make sense of their finances.” Noxolo Modise, a consultant at First NAtional Bank, Grahamstown says: “With seven out of ten pensioners being illiterate in the Eastern Cape, we can sometimes spend up to two hours with a pensioner to help them collect their social pension grants.” The problem extends even further as Ms. Modise explains that they often get loan sharks who pretend to be family members of pensioners in order to gain signing rights on their accounts.

The project will run until 2010 and pensioners such as Vuyelwa Masi in Grahamstown feel very pleased with its progress: “I am happy that I have found this school because now I do not have to rely on my family to take me to the bank in order to collect my grant.”

related links:
Adult Learning Network National Conference 2002
Mail and Guardian Online article: an ABC plan to reach XYZ

Low-cost housing in South Africa – a story of fraud, corruption, and general mismanagement.

25 05 2008

By Michelle Solomon

The low-cost houses in Vukani, a district in Grahamstown’s township, are in a seriously poor condition, displaying cracking walls, loose bricks, and leaking roofs. But Vukani is not the only housing project to be in such a poor state, and all over South Africa housing projects have become the subject of often scathing news reports.

“Over the last few years, many communities have shown their growing dissent over the government’s perceived poor levels in service delivery [in housing]” (Burgoyne, 12). In Vukani, experts have attributed the dismal state of Vukani housing to the use of emerging contractors, various degrees of corruption, poor planning and monitoring on the part of Makana municipality, and so on. Burgoyne writes that “the housing strategy lacked coherency and inadequately defined the roles and responsibilities of all role players in the housing sector.” According to Burgoyne, “this has contributed to the present breakdown in delivery and confusion as to housing responsibilities” (13).

The latest version of the South African Housing Code better defines the responsibilities of the various players in the housing sector, and most importantly that of local government. In terms of health of safety for instance, the municipality must “ensure that conditions not conducive to the health and safety of the inhabitants of its area of jurisdiction are prevented or removed” (South African Housing Code). Now if we ignore all the other clauses stipulating Makana’s responsibility for the problem in Vukani, the health and safety clause is clear. When we were in Vukani, many of the 1000 houses built had loose bricks over doorways, and even walls that swung roughly 1 cm in a slight breeze – these pose clear safety risks. A mother residing in Vukani was particularly concerned that the loose bricks above her front door would fall down and fatally injure her young children.

The Media and Communication’s officer at Makana municipality denies responsibility for the problem, while the Public Services Accountability Monitor (PSAM) and other sources claim this to be false.

Similar problems have arisen nation-wide. In an online story published by City Press, reporters state that a common problem with low-cost housing in several provinces is “shoddy workmanship” (Dumisane Lubisi, Jackie Mapiloko, Makhudu Sefara). In the Eastern Cape’s case, the poor quality of the houses may be attributed to several factors, but Lubisi, Mapiloko and Sefara point out a crucial error on the part of the provincial government. “The province elected to build a 40m² house using a conditional grant allowance which was based on a 30m² unit as the national norm,” Phumlani Mndolomba of the Eastern Cape Housing Department is quoted as saying (Lubisi et al).

The problem of poor workmanship of housing projects has also occurred in Mpumalanga, where the province had to destroy a housing project amounting to R9.5-million after is was discovered that “the developer had used “weak bricks” to build the 427 units” (Lubisi et al).

Mamelodi, a housing project on the periphery of Tshwane, Guateng, has also been declared of an inferior quality. “The more than 600 houses constructed to date are so defective that the Tshwane metro council refuses to issue occupation certificates and allow them to move in”, writes Waldner in City Press. Apparently, Tshwane metro did not approve any of the houses in Mamelodi’s Extension 22 because the “poor workmanship and materials used do not meet the minimum standards set by national building regulations” states council spokesperson Antoinette Mostert.

Ndivhuwo Mabaya, national housing department spokesperson, has stated that in cases where houses were of poor quality or where developers had disappeared after being paid, government would track down the developers and recover the money (Lubisi et al). In our investigation however, allegations were made that often beneficiaries of these sub-standard houses are intimidated by those responsible for the problem, including contractors and local government, and so they do not have a space to voice the problems with their homes. In Mamelodi, some houses were allegedly built on crooked foundations, the windows have no glass, and there are no storm-water pipes (Waldner). The latter of these is also evident in the houses of Vukani, and because the project is based on a slope, flooding and winter rains are potentially very hazardous to the safety of Vukani residents.

Delmas, Mpumalanga, has also been the site of an even worse standard of low-cost housing. Here, roughly 500 houses are subject to poor and defective sewerage systems, among other things. Mokoena writes that roughly 500 houses in Delpark Extension 2 are “surrounded by a trench of dirty, stinking water, which contains faeces”. There are also “leaking water pipes, roofs, drains and toilets. Others have no window panes, doors and sewer pipes” according to Mokoena.

“In some parts of the area, the drainage system cannot function properly, causing spillage of water and faeces into some of the houses, while in other areas there are no toilets, and residents are forced to walk for about 15 minutes to the veld to relieve themselves.” (Mokoena)

The national housing project has aimed to provide the many South Africans living in informal settlements (corrugated iron shacks) with “adequate housing”. In the South African constitution, it is a right to have such housing, but to the dismay of low-cost housing beneficiaries nation-wide, housing departments are not even meeting national standards for these housing. And we fail dismally and completely on an international scale.

Relevant links:

South African Housing Code; Part 2; Chapter 2.3 – “Role and functions of local government”

Burgoyne. “Factors affecting housing delivery in South Africa”.,%2BML.pdf+%22RDP+housing%22,+%22south+africa%22,+%22poor+quality%22&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=12&gl=za

Dumisane Lubisi, Jackie Mapiloko, Makhudu Sefara. City Press. “R2bn housing scandal”.,,186-187_2151358,00.html

Mariechen Waldner. City Press. “Shack dwellers rue defective homes”.,,186-187_2085334,00.html

Matefu Mokoena. City Press. “Mayor slammed over poor-quality houses”.,,186-187_1094096,00.html