Msunduzi Municipality’s R24m low-cost housing embarrassment
Durban - MSUNDUZI Municipality forked out R24 million for 250 low-cost houses, but allegedly forgot to conduct an environmental impact study or build underground infrastructure to support the development.
Now, the Woodlands housing project has become a white elephant, where half-built houses have been vandalised, stripped of their doors, windows and roof tiles.
The housing project was initiated by the municipality to relocate people living on Transnet land that has an active railway line through it.
The houses were to have two bedrooms, a lounge, kitchen and bathroom. The project, built between 2017 and 2018, was six months into construction when it stopped because the environmental impact assessment had not been conducted and the infrastructure for services was not put in place before construction began.
Municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said an investigation would be launched into the fiasco.
Asked what action the municipality was taking against officials involved, she said: “All I can say is that there will be an investigation into the matter.”
Mafumbatha refused to speak on the value of the project but said the amount of R24m would not be far off target as “that is quite a big project”.
She said the municipality had been of the opinion that processes had been followed in the building of the houses, and only found out about the problems after receiving a letter from the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs stating that there was non-compliance with the development.
Mafumbatha said the contract of the implementing agent had since been terminated due to extensive delays and failure to conclude planning activities and rectification processes. She said a new contractor had been appointed.
Provincial Human Settlements spokesperson Mbulelo Baloyi said negotiations were taking place for the department to take over the project.
“There are discussions between the municipality and the province to take over that project, but it was a project started by the Msunduzi Municipality. There is still some spadework the municipality needs to do.”
Those who were meant to benefit from the project still live in shacks in an area called Emalahleni (coal area) because it used to be a repository for Transnet coal.
“It is dangerous being here, because of the remnants of the coal. This area has a railway line in the middle, and the train can go past six times a day.
“One person who had been drinking walked too close to the line and was knocked down,” said a community member, who asked not to be named.
Vusi Zondi, a steering committee member tasked with liaising on the project on behalf of the community, said they had fought with the municipality on numerous occasions over the project.
“The way that project was carried out clearly shows that there was no intention for the community to benefit. How does the municipality account for all these problems that have led to the project being stalled?
“We noticed from the onset that there were problems. The contractor did not have the tools that you would expect for a contractor. Women from this area had to fetch water from the streets to be transported to the site, something that should have been done with a water tanker.”
Zondi said the situation was creating tension in the area.
“We go to the site just to stop people from stealing the material and we evict those living there illegally, and that is causing tension with the people that live close to the site.”
DA spokesperson on human settlements Martin Meyer said in a statement that the party visited the project last week and found it in a sad state.
“The houses are three-quarters built with wall frames, door frames and window frames and even roof structures. There are no roof tiles. There is also no bulk infrastructure so there are no water pipes, no electricity lines and no sewage lines.”
Msunduzi mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla said he was still gathering facts on the project and would be able to speak with authority in a few days.