The greatest challenge to South Africa’s housing crisis is the systematic failure of government to effectively plan, construct and keep records of RDP beneficiaries.
Tembisa in Ekurhuleni has numerous informal settlements, such as Madelakufa. At the many meetings that I have had with residents and community leaders there, residents complain that they don’t know where they are on housing lists for potential RDP projects. Others complain that they moved into Madelakufa in 1996 but are yet to receive houses while others who have moved to the informal settlement more recently have already received their houses.
The community leaders and residents say they are constantly promised that their houses will be ready soon – especially just before an election, but once voting day passes, they continue to wait in limbo until the next promise.
Sarah (not her real name), who has a 14-year-old disabled son, is one of the hundreds of desperate people waiting to be moved so that she and her son can have a better quality of life.
In Ward 8 a new RDP development, popularly called Greenfields, has been built. A man in another ward of Tembisa gave me the address of a house in the area which was allocated to him. But upon inspection of this property, it was found that it was already occupied. According to the lady staying in the house, she paid the previous ANC councillor to get the house. It seems to be the order of the day – bypass the waiting list, jump the queue and pay connected people to take occupation of a house that had already been allocated to another resident.
But even where occupation is taken by the right beneficiary, security of tenure is not a guarantee. One woman told me that she was very excited to move from a shack to an RDP house. However, as she gets older, she is frightened for the well-being of her children as she is yet to receive a title deed for the property. Her children may well be evicted after her passing, leaving them back where they started.
Gauteng MEC for Human Settlements, Paul Mashatile, must address this as a matter of urgency.
Entry level earners, many of whom will never qualify for a bond but are employed, live their lives in the backyards of others until they are fortunate enough to be allocated an RDP house. But until that happens, they have to share a communal toilet and use plastic baths for bathing and to do their laundry. More lives in limbo… just like those who live in informal settlements.
But housing challenges do not disappear with the allocation of a house or accessing a low-cost bond to buy a property, they just change.
A common problem where low-cost bond house are concerned is that the property, according to municipal records, is on two sites (erfs). This results in the house having two municipal accounts. Homeowners are encouraged by municipal officials to pay one account and not the other, leaving the second account in arrears.
In one such instance an elderly man, whose wife died five years ago, has documentation indicating that he has repaid his home loan yet according to municipality records, the house is registered to one of its (the municipality’s) employees. The municipal employee has never been to the house – who buys a house and never goes to see it? The old man believes that “they” have stolen his house and that as soon as he dies, the municipal worker will make an appearance to claim the house, leaving his children homeless.
Housing in South Africa is a sensitive issue as it ties in with land ownership. Owning one’s house means that a person has an asset which they can use for guaranteeing a loan. Homeownership restores dignity and goes a long way to redressing the legacy of apartheid.
But the the current housing system – fraught with corruption, nepotism and appalling record keeping – will continue to perpetuate the legacy of apartheid. Unless something drastic happens to turn the tide, millions of South Africans will continue to be subject to absolute poverty and degradation. DM
Watermelons were originally cultivated in Africa.