Durban - Two weeks. That is how long it took for the Economic Freedom Fighters to build a house for S’thandiwe Hlongwane, 31, who lives just metres from President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead.
On the day the house was handed over, the party’s red-beret-clad members were seen frantically putting last-minute touches to the roof. The walls of the house had also been plastered days before the handover.
Two months later, the roof of the house is caving in, and its walls are beginning to show cracks.
But Hlongwane does not blame her bearer of good fortune, EFF leader Julius Malema, but rather the contractor who did a shoddy job.
Malema handed over the house built by his party in January amid tension in Zuma’s home town.
Angry Nkandla residents wearing ANC T-shirts hurled insults at Malema for daring to build a house for the president’s neighbour.
The Sunday Independent visited Hlongwane to see how her life had changed since receiving the house.
The first thing you notice from the main road is that the roof of the newly built house dips in the centre of the structure.
The roof tiles sit loosely on the roof and could easily be blown away by strong winds.
We received a warm welcome from Hlongwane, who didn’t stop smiling, despite her recent troubles.
“I am still getting used to having tiles in the house,” she said, referring to the brown floor tiles.
There was little furniture in the two-bedroomed house.
“I had to move the sofas to the kids’ bedroom, because when it rains water seeps in through the ceiling,” she explained.
“Everything happened so fast. It’s no wonder things are falling apart. I have only been living in the house for two months, and the roof is already caving in. Last week, when it rained, water was seeping into the house.
“It’s the contractor’s fault.
“The wooden planks are too far apart, and the roof tiles are too heavy.”
She said she had reported the defects to the contractor, Paul, in Joburg, and he had made numerous promises about fixing the roof, but they were never honoured.
Apart from the defects, Hlongwane says she loves her house and is confident the EFF will keep its promise to fix the roof and complete some of the features they were originally unable to finish.
“I don’t have to cook outside any more. So much has changed. It is really beautiful,” she said.
When the house was handed over to her, Hlongwane also received household goods to start her off, including a TV stand, a fridge, a kitchen set, a shower, a flushing toilet, two single beds, a double bed, a four-piece wardrobe set and sofas. Someone even offered to pay for her DStv connection.
“The fault is not with Malema – it is with the contractor who failed to do a good job. Malema did not physically build the house.”
Hlongwane reported the matter to the EFF’s Empangeni branch, whose members came to inspect the house and promised her they would have it fixed.
“They also promised to finish the tiling on the veranda, and to complete the bathroom. I am also trying to get the water connected. I am in talks with the municipality.”
Hlongwane is also trying to get her electricity connected.
“I know that things won’t happen immediately because of the elections. Parties are busy campaigning,” she said.
The EFF’s KwaZulu-Natal convenor, Vusi Khoza, confirmed that Hlongwane had reported the problems to the party.
“Some of our comrades from uThungulu district have visited her,” he said.
Khoza promised he would take a contractor to Nkandla this weekend to have the problems fixed.
He admitted the party had been busy with its election campaign, but said it had not forgotten about Hlongwane.
“We will fix the roof and connect the toilet, so that when she has water, she is able to use it.”
Hlongwane remains hopeful.
“My life has changed dramatically. Malema has really helped me. People will always talk about whether it’s something positive or negative. Sometimes I think that it is out of jealousy.”
She said she knew by accepting a house from the EFF she was putting herself in a difficult position.
“The EFF has never asked me to vote for them. They have never forced me to vote for them – they know that that wouldn’t be right. I know who I am going to vote for.
“Malema has lifted us out of poverty. And even if people judge me, I don’t have a problem with the house. They will fix it. I love my house.”