Durban - Seventeen years after the eThekwini municipality spent R30 million on a low-cost housing project in Inkanyezi near Marianhill, several homes are still without a roof.
The project was started in 1997, but for various reasons, including claims of corruption, was stopped several times.
While the majority of houses have been completed, several are unfinished and stand in plots where the grass has grown knee-high.
According to residents, the homes have been neglected for so long that they will have to be totally refurbished before anyone can move into them.
Nigel Gumede, chairman of the eThekwini human settlements committee, said the municipality did not roof the houses to prevent invaders occupying them while they tracked down the listed beneficiaries.
“We had a big problem in that area because whenever we completed a house it would be invaded,” he said.
In 2011, in a response to questions from the DA, the city said it would complete the roofing of the houses within six months and blamed the delay on not being able to locate beneficiaries.
Hlanganani Gumbi, the DA’s eThekwini Human Settlements spokesman, said the city had run out of excuses and that they planned to lay a complaint with the Public Protector’s office.
“We are very upset about this. Our housing department has a waiting list with 400 000 people wanting homes and here is an example of houses that the city can’t even complete. The city should have completed this project long ago but, for some reason or another, can’t seem to want to or don’t want to complete it,” he said.
Dumisani Nxumalo, resident of a nearby informal settlement, said he had been allocated a house in 1997 in the vicinity. The father of two points to an area on a hill where his home is located.
“It’s up there, but I can’t move in without a roof. It’s been too long and I don’t know what to do any more,” he said.
Some people have taken to roofing their own homes with corrugated iron sheets, according to some locals.
Another resident, who did not want his name published, said many people had decided to put tin roofs over the structures.
“After waiting so long for the houses, many people just put on their own roofs. But there is no electricity in there. People have been waiting for many years and they are just too tired to fight any more,” he said.
DA caucus leader Zwakele Mncwango said the city was being dishonest by claiming to be looking for beneficiaries as they were easy to find.
“They are right here at the informal settlement. We have proof that people have been allocated houses,” he said.
Gumede said the municipality had gone to court many times to get people evicted.
“When we come to evict them, the whole community bands together and prevents us from evicting the illegal occupiers. We then decided that we would not roof the houses until we located the rightful beneficiary.”
Gumede said he was angry with the DA for politicising the issue as the party sat in council and was aware of the issues facing the development.
“They should not be standing there throwing stones while we are trying to minimise land invasions.
There is a list of people who have been allocated those houses but we can’t find them because some of them have been chased by the community. Even as we speak, there have been invaders who have roofed some of those houses on their own. It is a big problem for the city,” he said.