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Ekurhuleni’s multibillion-rand housing project stalls as nearby shack dwellers demand services

Ekurhuleni’s multibillion-rand housing project stalls as nearby shack dwellers demand services
Residents Ofentse Rakhudu and Tebogo Makolomekwe, representatives of the Daggafontein Community desk, point to the area earmarked for the City of Ekurhuleni’s Daggafontein Mega City project. Very little work has been done on the project and residents in nearby informal settlements are demanding answers. (Photo: Kimberly Mutandiro)

‘The government has surely forgotten us,’ says Daggafontein pensioner.

The City of Ekurhuleni’s multibillion-rand Daggafontein Mega Housing project was expected to be a flagship for affordable housing in the city. It was set to provide about 18,000 homes.

The development site was initially launched in 2016, but construction at the site began in 2017. The cost of the development is expected to be well above the initial estimated R10-billion budget. The project had stalled due to lockdown in 2020 and resumed in 2021 until the previous contractor’s contract lapsed in December 2022. The City has now mandated itself to complete the project over 10 years.

Now, more than five years after the project was launched, the building site appears to be far from complete, with only sewerage piping and tarred roads, with no houses or signs at the site.

A few hundred metres from the new mega development site are three informal settlements – Daggafontein, Kwasa Village and Anchor/N1.

About 2,000 people live in the three settlements, according to community leaders. The residents say they have been waiting to hear if they qualify to be beneficiaries once houses are built at the mega city project. According to residents, the first phase of the project was expected to be completed by the end of 2019.

Residents from the informal settlements protested in May 2022 to demand that they be given water, toilets and for electricity to be installed in their shacks. GroundUp has seen a letter, handed out to shack dwellers by an official from the infrastructure portfolio of Ward 76 in June 2022, stating that they are to benefit from the Daggafontein housing project.

The City also conducted a census of the settlements in July 2022 to determine how many households needed services like water and toilets. To date no additional services have been offered and the City has kept mum on the mega housing project, say residents.

Daggafontein informal settlement resident Sisikazi Madhobe says she and other elderly residents were given a verbal promise by City officials that they would be given houses in the new development when it has been completed. (Photo: Kimberly Mutandiro)

At Daggafontein informal settlement, up to 10 families share one chemical toilet. There are a few communal taps but residents say they were told the City could only offer limited services because they are on privately owned land.

Sisikazi Madhobe (73) said she has been waiting for a house for decades. She said some neighbours help her to collect water from a tap a few metres from her shack. She said she spends most of her pension money on repairing her leaking roof every winter. 

Madhobe said that, as the mega city project launched, officials from the City came to speak to them, and she and other elderly residents were given a verbal promise of houses in the new development.

“I want the government to build me a house. I have sleepless nights worrying about whether l will ever get a house in this life. The government has surely forgotten us.” she said.

The Kwasa Village settlement is on land belonging to an independent primary school. The settlement has more than 500 shacks, while some families live in abandoned mineworker houses.

Read more in Daily Maverick: RDP occupiers threaten violence and bloodshed if evicted from properties in Ekurhuleni

Penelope Nomaswazi said she moved here with her husband in 2001 and paid rent for the old mineworker home to the previous landowner. She said since the old owners left, they haven’t had electricity or water. The toilet in the house does not work, so she has to use the communal chemical toilet shared with 10 other families in the informal settlement.

Nomaswazi said she was also promised a home in Mega City.

‘Vulnerable children’

Reverend Sharron Anne Dinnie of the Anglican Church, who owns the Kwasa land and primary school, said she acquired the 20 hectares from the previous owner, John Borat.

“Our vision is to provide good education for vulnerable children. The municipality promised that it would move the occupiers to Mega City by now. The fact that this has not happened is standing in the way of the future of vulnerable children who deserve quality education.

“I have sent emails to the municipality informing them of our intentions to build a high school but received no answers,” said Dinnie.

Kwasa Village resident Penelope Nomaswazi lives in an abandoned mine worker hostel on land now owned by the Anglican Church. She has to use the communal toilets with the families living in the informal settlement near her home. (Photo: Kimberly Mutandiro)

The N17 informal settlement is on an old farm next to the N17 freeway. Residents here complain that more than five families share one toilet, their shacks have no electricity and there are not enough taps. The area also has large old trees which have fallen and damaged some shacks.

Letty Mnguni, chairperson of the N17 housing committee, said when the farm owner died in 1994, the informal settlement mushroomed.

City of Ekurhuleni spokesperson Zweli Dlamini confirmed that the occupiers from all three settlements are living on private land. “It would not make sense to provide permanent services to temporary settlements on privately owned land,” he said.

Asked why the Mega City housing project had stalled, Dlamini only said that the City was busy appointing a new contractor. “The contract given to TCT Civils and Construction lapsed in December 2022,” he said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Ekurhuleni housing project stalls again as municipality fires construction firm linked to Magashule crony

According to Dlamini the previous contractors had only completed roads, stormwater, water and sewer provision.

However, residents say that at a public meeting in 2021 they were promised 900 units by the end of December 2022, which never materialised. Dlamini said the City has now mandated itself to complete the project over 10 years.

Dlamini said the budget allocations for the project were: R118-million in 2019, R62-million in 2020, R36-million in 2021 and R35-million in 2022. Dlamini did not respond to questions about how much the City had already paid to the previous contractors and how much would be allocated for the remainder of the project. DM

First published by GroundUp.

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