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”

http://www.housing.gov.za/Content/The%20Housing%20Code/Part%202/Part%202%20-%20Chapter%202.htm#2.3

Burgoyne. “Factors affecting housing delivery in South Africa”.

http://209.85.175.104/search?q=cache:olUi3UnzOJ8J:ir.sun.ac.za/dspace/bitstream/10019/759/1/Burgoyne,%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”.

http://www.news24.com/City_Press/News/0,,186-187_2151358,00.html

Mariechen Waldner. City Press. “Shack dwellers rue defective homes”.

http://www.news24.com/City_Press/News/0,,186-187_2085334,00.html

Matefu Mokoena. City Press. “Mayor slammed over poor-quality houses”.

http://www.news24.com/City_Press/News/0,,186-187_1094096,00.html

 

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Who should be blamed for SA’s electricity crisis?

4 04 2008

By Syanda Ngcobo

 Photo source: www.imageshack.us

It has been a while now that South Africans have been living unhappy lives. People are constantly scared of the evil demon known as “load shedding”.  Who should really take the blame, since both Eskom and the government refuse to do so.  Now the government and Eskom started to point their fingers at the consumers of electricity which does not make any sense to me. The power shortage was known about long time ago. Both sides that were responsible did nothing to prevent it. I think consumers have the right to blame Eskom and the government for the failure to do something. I am just wondering what the minister of Minerals and Energy was doing all along during her term in office. Is she happy now? I think she is. She must be happy because she brought us into this deep mess.

Now, Eskom and the government are ordering people to use the electricity efficiently. But my problem is, what do they mean by efficiently?  People have paid for electricity and need to use it the way they like. And currently Eskom want to increase electricity price by 60 percent.  I think that is ridiculous. How you can do that while people’s demands have not met yet? Eskom expects people to accept this while they spend hours without electricity. I do not want to talk about affordability in terms of who is going to afford and who is not, because I am not COSATU or Zwelinzima Vavi.

Mr. Government and Mr. Eskom you need to address this problem as soon as possible, otherwise South Africa is going down down!





How free are we?

4 04 2008

 by Nomawethu Solwandle

If you keep up with what is happening in the media then there is no doubt that you would have probably seen the story about the girl who was humiliated at a taxi rank because she was wearing a mini skirt. I was both shocked and disgusted to see that people still thuoght like those men in that taxi rank, even in the new South Africa. I thought that narrow mindedness was left behind. I naively thought that South Africa was one of those countries that had come a long way and that we could look foward to an even brighter future, moving foward with the spirit of ubuntu where we worked together as a country.

It is sad that just a hand full of people can spoil it for everyone because am pretty sure that there are more South Africans with positive minds, that want to move foward and grow both politically and socially, but how can we move foward if such people still exist in our societies?

I always though that public spaces like taxi ranks were one of those places where one would feel safe, guess i was wrong. I mean I am from a township and I feel totally safe at the taxi ranks I go to. You might get those odd of hoofs and whistles or “aw baby awusemhle kangaka” (Oh baby you are so beautiful) but I mean those are things you can still ignore or tell those people where to get off, but to actually be humiliated in public like that must have been devastating .

On a  programme called “Youth Expression” on SABC 1 this week, they raised this issue about girls wearing mini skirts.  Obviously relating the issue to what the media had already put foward. South African youth were allowed to bring their views foward on the issue. One girl commented and said that maybe South Africa needs to have more police patroling in public areas such as taxi ranks. I agree with this to some extent. At the same time we can not always blame other people’s bad behaviour on the police force. I am not saying the police force is perfect, they have their issues but that is a totally different story and that is not what I would like to get into now because it is another issue on its own. We as South Africans need to be disciplined in our own right before we can have other people looking out for us. We may have more of the police force protecting us but it is of no use if we do not have values and self discipline.

What those men did at that taxi rank was disgusting and they need to be severely punished for their actions. We can wear whatever we want, when we want and most importanatly where we want. South Africa is a free country, is it not? Our former president utata uRolihlahla Nelson Mandela declared South Africa a free country in 1994. If we as South Africans not respect what he worked and fought so hard for, then that means that his trial of 27 years in Robben Island was in vain.