Durban — The DA in KwaZulu-Natal is demanding answers after a more than R134 million oThongathi housing project resulted in the production of 11 units in six years.
That was according to DA KZN spokesperson on human settlements Marlaine Nair after she received a written reply from KZN Human Settlements MEC Sipho Nkosi to her questions in the KZN legislature.
Nair had asked Nkosi about the Umbhayi Project, which began in 2017 but has still not been completed and appears to be at a standstill.
In his response, Nkosi said that the civil construction had been completed and the tender for the construction of the top structure is in process.
He said that 248 units were planned for the project.
“To date, show blocks, comprising 11 units have commenced,” Nkosi said about the number of units that have been built to date.
He said that the budget for the project was “R62 084 716.44, as funding from the department, from the Human Settlement Development Grant (HSDG) allocation for internal services and top structures, (and) R72 969 730 as funding from the Upgrading of Informal Settlements Grant (USDG), for bulk earthworks and services, managed by eThekwini Municipality”.
When asked how much has been used thus far, Nkosi said, “R15 001 358.28 was spent to date from the HSDG allocation and R72 969 730 was spent to date from the USDG allocation.”
Nkosi said that the contractor appointed for the project was DC Earthmoving, Plant Hire & Civils while the top structure contractor was ZM&F Suppliers.
He said that the contractor has not defaulted in any way.
He admitted, however, that all “the 11 incomplete units have been vandalised”.
He said that houses are meant to benefit residents of Umbhayi informal settlement, and thus far there had been no interference with the allocations of units.
Asked about how long the proposed occupants have been waiting to take occupation of the houses, Nkosi said that civil infrastructure was completed in December 2022.
“Only top structures are (left) to be constructed. Presently, the tender for top structure construction is in the municipal supply chain process,” Nkosi said.
“Anticipated date of completion of the project is July 2026. However, house completion and occupation are anticipated to commence from February/March 2024.”
Nkosi said that at this stage, no additional funding will be required.
He also mentioned that on one occasion, the so-called construction mafia disrupted work on the project.
“A meeting was facilitated by the eThekwini Municipality with all the concerned parties. The matter was resolved amicably,” Nkosi said.
Reacting to the responses, Nair said, “It is unacceptable that this development is so far behind when KZN already has such a massive housing backlog. How the department will begin occupation in just a few months’ time remains to be seen.
“KZN’s Department of Human Settlements can no longer drag its heels. The informal settlement dwellers for whom this housing is intended have been waiting six long years.”
She said that this is not an isolated incident – there are many others facing a similar situation – yet the department does not seem to care.
“Delays also result in vandalism and, in some areas, illegal occupation. Then there are the budgetary challenges due to delays, given that building material costs are escalating all the time,” Nair said.
She said that according to the reply, funding for the project is from both the department’s HSDG and eThekwini’s USDG. To date, R87m has been spent – R15m from the HSDG allocation and R72m from the USDG allocation.
“The reply also indicates that the contractor has not defaulted in any way. However, work was disrupted on one occasion by the so-called construction mafia,” Nair said.
She said that KZN’s Department of Human Settlements continues to show inferior results in achieving its own performance targets. The DA is also aware that eThekwini has not built any new houses for several years, placing it in danger of losing its implementing agent status – if it is not lost already.
Nair said that the people of KZN can no longer put up with a government that does not prioritise their needs. The 2024 elections will present them with the opportunity to save our province, she added.
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