Durban - Construction crews have been hard at work on final touch-ups at the Cornubia housing project north of Durban before President Jacob Zuma’s visit on Sunday.

The first phase of the R25 billion project has been completed, with more than 400 houses built and ready for occupation.

While some families had taken up residence in December, others will be moving in on Sunday.

They are the first of more than 28 000 families that will eventually call the area – what used to be sugar cane fields between Phoenix and Mount Edgecombe – home.

When completed, the area will be home to more than 100 000 people, with schools, health services and other infrastructural developments in the pipeline.

Zuma will hand over the first batch of homes on Sunday. Hundreds of people will be bused in for the event.

He is expected to announce the new name for the development as Nelson Mandela Village.

However, eThekwini Municipality spokesman, Thabo Mofokeng, would not confirm this and said discussions on the name were continuing.

When a Daily News team toured the massive housing development on Thursday, some new residents were busy settling in.

The Muthias had livened up their two-bedroom home with flowers, plants and garden ornaments.

Sally Muthia, 63, said she had lived in a wood-and-iron shack in Blackburn Village for many years with her husband James, 66, before they were given a home in Cornubia in December.

“We are just pensioners, so we don’t work. All we pay for is lights and water,” she said.

“I have waited for this home for 10 years and all I can say is thank you, because we really needed this house.”

The couple’s home is tiled, electrified and has a shower.

Apart from a problem with flies, the “high” electricity costs and a broken toilet earlier this year, they said it was good to finally have a home.

The Muthias said they were paying about R100 a week for electricity, and complained that the light bulbs fitted were not the energy efficient ones approved by Eskom.

Another resident, S’bongile Gama, 46, who is unemployed and a widow, was selling fried chips, sausages and vetkoek to support her family.

She said she had been retrenched in 2008 by the cleaning company she had worked for after a series of asthma attacks that had kept her away from work.

Gama previously lived at the Phola Park transit camp in Phoenix, where she experienced the pain of losing her 7-year-old son who was killed by a stray bullet in 2012.

She said she was thankful for the house and was now praying for a regular job.

“The president has done a great thing, we must thank him and what he has done for us is great,” she said.

“I wish my husband was still alive to see this; it’s been difficult since his death.”

Poverty was rife in the area, and some families were struggling to keep the lights on.

“Some people sleep hungry and have no lights; one of them is my friend, she has epileptic fits, but she can’t get a grant because they say she is still young,” Gama said.

The woman was not at home on Thursday.

Another resident, Hlengiwe Ndlovu, whose home was not tiled, said she was just thankful to have a home and did not even want to raise the matter with the municipality.

She used to live in a shack in Wyebank, near Pinetown, and said her life was “stress free” now.

Her kids had enrolled at schools in Phoenix.

Mofokeng said there were no major issues with the homes, and that the minor ones would be addressed as officials were still on site. However, he said energy saving was the responsibility of the residents.

Daily News