South Africa

GROUNDUP EASTERN CAPE

A company that received R1.5-billion left Cofimvaba households with a pile of concrete slabs instead of toilets

A company that received R1.5-billion left Cofimvaba households with a pile of concrete slabs instead of toilets
Cornelia Rani, who is 62 and lives with her very elderly mother in Luxhomo village, showed us her makeshift toilet. “What saddens me mostly is to see my mom having to use this toilet,” she said. (Photos: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik)

Issues of corruption, incompetence raised as Cofimvaba residents endure years-long housing project delays

Many Cofimvaba residents who had expected to have RDP houses by 2017 are still waiting for their houses to be completed.

In 2015, a Gauteng-based company, Vuikani construction, was awarded an R82-million tender to build 489 houses in villages around Cofimvaba in the Eastern Cape.

By October 2019, the construction company had only completed 95 houses (less than 20%) of the job. A further 140 houses were partly completed and 254 houses had not yet been started.

Vuikani then returned to Bolokodlela village in Qamata ward 2, raising residents’ hopes.

Nowes Marhenene says that when the company returned, they told her that the walls, which was all that had been built of her house, did not meet standards. They then demolished them. The company started rebuilding, but once again left a few weeks later before her house was finished.

“Only three houses were handed over. There was no explanation. They just left,” she said.

We counted seven unfinished RDP houses. A number of residents said Vuikani hadn’t even started building their homes.

At least Marhenene’s house now has a roof and windows and outside doors. But there is no electricity, ceiling, plumbing or paint.

Nomathemba Ncamile, who is 72 this year, said she doubts she’ll live long enough to see an RDP house.

“When the construction company came back in 2019, they said they will start with my house because it appeared in the [GroundUp] article … But that did not happen. They left it unfinished and no one knows when they are going to come back,” she said.

Ncamile currently lives in a two-roomed mud house and a rondavel. She has used rocks to keep the roof from blowing away.

“It’s been four years now waiting,” she said.

Resident Notimile Dani said people want the tender to be given to a company that can finish the job.

Nowes Marhenene lives in this rondavel while she waits for her RDP house. (Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik)

In another area, where Vuikani also left RDP houses unfinished in 2016, MMM Construction has taken over, according to Ward 4 Councillor Manyewu Shasha. He said good progress has been made and only a few houses are left to be finished.

Five days after we sent a media inquiry to Yanga Funani, spokesperson for the Eastern Cape Department of Human Settlements, Vuikani returned to Bholokodlela to paint the houses of Ncamile and Marhenene.

Funani blamed the delays on disputes between subcontractors and the local contractor stopping Vuikani from working.

Funani said all beneficiaries will receive their houses before March 2022. He said 21 houses are at the finishing stage, 12 have slabs, and 16 are still to be started.

Vuikani Managing Director Sibusiso Makwedini admitted there had been delays.

He said the unfinished houses in Bolokodlela were caused by a local subcontractor who obstructed them and stopped them completing the units.

He said there are approximately 40 houses not completed in the project. Of these, 15 are in remote Madakana and will be completed in the next two months.

Izwelethu Cemforce, which won over R1.5-billion in tenders, left villagers with just a pile of concrete slabs on the ground, like this one, six months ago and never returned. (Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik)

Meanwhile, in Magwala, Wodehouse and Isikhoba villages, Izwelethu Cemforce was contracted by Chris Hani District Municipality to build toilets.

The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) is investigating the awarding of tenders by two municipalities to Izwelethu Cemforce. National spokesperson Brigadier Nomthandazo Mbambo said over R1.5-billion was paid to the company.

All the company did in Luxhomo was to leave each household with five loose concrete slabs, presumably to assemble a toilet. No pits were dug or any other work done.

Resident Nozintombi Ntinga uses her neighbour’s toilet but often has to use a bucket at night and an open field during the day. “We do not know when these toilets will be built,” she said.

Chris Hani District Municipality spokesperson Bulelwa Ganyaza said the matter is the subject of an investigation and she cannot provide further details.

Izwelethu Cemforce’s Queenstown office referred us to its head office in Kimberley. A person answering the phone, who refused to give her name, said the company had no comment. DM

One of the unfinished RDP houses in Cofimvaba’s Bolokodlela village. (Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik)

First published by GroundUp.

 

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Allan Taylor says:

    The tender was R82 m for 489 RDP houses – this works out at R167 700 per house. The house pictured, even allowing for the remoteness of the site, should not have cost more than R50 000 plumbed and wired. It is a revolting disgrace. Viva ANC, Viva!

  • Steve Spottiswoode says:

    Perhaps it is totally idealistic, but IMO customers and communities should have some say in public service contracts, including assessing whether the work was done to standard.

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