RDP Houses Falling Apart at the Seams

Private Property South Africa

Over the years, numerous stories linked to poorly constructed RDP houses have emerged. In mid-February, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela issued a report on the matter to parliament’s oversight committee which highlighted just how serious the problem has become.

According to the report, Madonsela’s office has received over 5000 complaints this year alone. Problems listed included houses that lacked foundations and homes built from material which crumbled to the touch.

“We found homes that don’t have foundations and homes that were built with something more like mud…when you poke through, it falls apart,” she told the committee. She added that government was losing billions of rands to corrupt construction companies.

RDP homes were first rolled out in 1994 in a bid to address the enormous social imbalances brought about by apartheid. While government claims to have successfully delivered hundreds of thousands of homes, the quality of many of these is questionable. According to Madonsela’s report, so bad are some of the houses that they cannot be fixed and will have to be demolished.

Madonsela’s report is merely another milestone in the RDP saga. Following a visit to Braamfischerville in 2012, DA spokesperson Stevens Mokgalapa said: “We saw examples of houses that are built in areas where spring water constantly oozes from the ground. This results in the growth of algae on interior walls which poses significant health risks to both adults and children. People are unable to clean their yards because of flowing water and sewerage and their children are kept from playing outside. The residents of Braamfischerville are fed up, and rightfully so.”

According to Mokgalapa, approximately 40 families in the area had to be relocated in 2011 as a result of uninhabitable homes. Mokgalapa called for Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale to account for the situation given that he had promised R1, 3 billion would be put towards a rectification programme to address substandard RDP houses in February 2011.

In 2009, the RDP houses in Vukani, Grahamstown were also reportedly falling apart. According to the area’s residents, many of the hundreds of houses were plagued by loose cement blocks and cracks had reportedly caused some walls to disintegrate.

In 2012, residents in Delft complained about their RDP homes too. Lucinda Links, a Delft resident said: “Our home is falling apart around us. I don’t know what to do anymore.” She said the plaster had fallen off the walls long ago and large cracks are now visible. “The inside is always wet and cold when it rains. I am afraid for my children’s health.”

On the day of her report, Madonsela told the committee about a 75 year old woman named Gogo Nkosi from Gauteng who had complained about being on an RDP waiting list since 1996. After Madonsela’s office intervened, Gogo was finally given a house but it didn’t have ablution facilities and she had to use a neighbour’s toilet. When sanitation was eventually installed, it leaked, at which point the contractor told her she would have to fix it herself. The list of complaints from around the country goes on...

Director General in the Human Settlements Department, Thabane Zulu welcomed the report and said contractors responsible for shoddy workmanship were being brought to book. Lending credence to this statement, he said 59 housing contracts worth R4 billion have already been investigated and finalised. Contracts worth an additional R20 billion have also been identified for investigation and will be carried out alongside a number of other investigations.

Madonsela asked the committee to call on the Department of Human Settlements and other role-players to brief parliament on progress made in addressing concerns. She added that there was a need for parliament to take a uniform approach to accountability of wrongdoers and bluntly stated that the money should be collected from people who “messed up.”

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