Durban - The eThekwini Municipality has had to hire private security guards to ward off homeless people desperate for council houses, mayor James Nxumalo said on Thursday.
Some were “invading” and even destroying homes that had been allocated to others, he said.
Nxumalo was speaking to the Daily News after handing over a house to a disabled recipient, and checking progress on another, at Nkanyezini, near Pinetown.
He said Lungile Mdletshe and Batman Mkhize were supposed to have got their houses in 2011, but the then newly-built homes were invaded by people who had taken advantage of their disabilities.
New houses, sponsored by a construction company, Amandla Ethu Projects, which had become aware of the situation after the SABC highlighted it in October, were built elsewhere for them, but one of them was damaged three times by local homeless people.
Work on the two houses had to then be carried out under 24-hour security.
“When people see vacant and completed houses, they invade them knowing very well that once they had moved in, we would say let them be,” said Nxumalo.
The mayor denied the hand-over was timed to gain publicity ahead of next week’s elections.
“No, it was just a coincidence. As you can see, this house is new and the paint is still wet,” he said, pointing to Mdletshe’s new home.
“The contractor told us last week the house was complete and that we must not take too long (to hand it over) before it was invaded too...”
For Mdletshe, 29, the new brick building meant an end to her days of living in a mud house and having to crawl on stones to use an outside toilet.
She said she had applied for an RDP house in 2005, but it was only on Thursday that she got the keys to her own home.
“Other people were selling people’s houses and maybe even our house was sold as well,” Mdletshe said. “We are happy we finally found a place to stay.”
Her mother, Thoko Mdletshe, said life had been difficult for her daughter as she had not had a wheelchair and inside toilet.
“She had to crawl her way on stones to get to the toilet, which is outside the house,” she said.
Both Lungile and Mkhize were given wheelchairs by Zikhulise Cleaning, Maintenance and Transport CC, owned by building contractor Shauwn Mpisane, who also contributed the furniture.
Mkhize, 64, who is to move into his new home later this month, said he, too, had lived, with his wife and four children, in a mud house.
“My house was falling apart and it would have fallen on me,” said Mkhize.