The government spent R230m on units that have never been occupied and been vandalised. Picture: Timothy Bernard/ANA
The government spent R230m on units that have never been occupied and been vandalised. Picture: Timothy Bernard/ANA

R230m poured into Soweto hostel project down the drain

By Botho Molosankwe Time of article published Apr 5, 2021

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Johannesburg - They were supposed to be a new development putting people living in squalor in the old apartheid-era hostels in housing that would give them the dignity they had been deprived of.

Meadowlands, Dube, Mzimhlophe and Diepkloof Hostels cost the government R230 million. They were much nicer than their apartheid-era counterparts and also came with a toilet, meaning the new residents would no longer have to rely on bucket toilets to relieve themselves.

However, 10 years after being completed, these hostels are still empty and have been vandalised. Those who were meant to move in still live in squalor and are bitter at how things turned out.

When The Star reported on these newly constructed units six years ago, some had been standing empty for years after construction had been completed.

Vandals had already taken whatever they thought could be of value then as some doors were missing and almost every window had been broken.

The taps had been ripped from the walls and the stoves, which came with the units, kept being stolen whenever they were replaced.

Six years later, the situation has now worsened.

The Dube Hostel has been completely vandalised. There are no windows, no door and no roof and anything that is of value has been stolen.

So bad is the vandalism that the structure would have to be demolished and then rebuilt from the scratch.

The government spent R230m on units that have never been occupied and have been vandalised. Picture: Timothy Bernard/ANA

One resident who was supposed to be one of the beneficiaries of Dube Hostel, Zongendaba Shabangu, said the structures were vandalised because the government want people to pay R750 a month to rent them. However, they feel it was too steep for their pockets.

They thought the units, built next to their old hostel as well as squatter camp, were RDP houses and they were beneficiaries. However, they claimed to have been surprised that when construction was completed, they were told they would have to pay rent.

“I think it’s about 10-years that these hostels have been standing empty,” Shabangu said.

“The old hostel is not okay. The pipes are not okay, and the government knew, hence it built the new hostel. However, now they are vandalised.

“You can’t even say who vandalised them because they do it at night. It’s criminals who did this,” he said.

According to the Gauteng Department of Human Settlement’s Tahir Sema, it had not been established as to who from their department should shoulder the blame for this.

He explained the units were built as rental stock for hostel residents.

However, he said, it later emerged the hostel residents could not afford the rental price that had been determined.

“Subsequently, they refused to occupy the units, also refusing anyone from outside hostels access to the units. Some of these units have also been invaded, evicting illegal occupants is proving to be a challenge.

“There is nothing that can be done when it comes to repairs as the houses have been invaded. The first thing that needs to be done is to evict and this is a challenging process.”

Sema said the current plan was to seek approval from the National Department of Human Settlements for “rectification” or repairs as they could not be done without such approval as the budget for the Provincial Department comes from the National Department.

“Once such approval is granted, units that are not invaded will be repaired and allocated to qualifying beneficiaries.

“Appointment of professionals to quantify the costs will be done in the first quarter of 2021/22 financial year. Therefore, the costs will be known once the professionals have completed the quantification exercise.

Sema confirmed Meadowlands Hostel, which comprises 230 units, is still standing empty but had minimal structural damage in many of the units.

None of Diepkloof Hostel’s 70 units had been occupied, he said, and there was “extensive structural damage in many units and professionals have been appointed to the quantify damage”.

Regarding Dube Hostel, Sema said: “There is extensive damage with no units standing. The National Home Builders Registration Council Structural Assessment Report recommend complete demolition and site clearance.

“The decision to redesign the units into RDP Walk-ups was taken. A process to appoint professionals was delayed due to some ’leaders’ disrupting the site briefing session.”

The department also said there were other units in the province which, upon completion, were invaded while others were vandalised.

Tema also said Nobuhle Hostel’s 442 units in Alexandra had been invaded and there was also extensive structural damage. The project had since been handed to the City of Joburg.

Shalimar Ridge, which has 186 units, was meant for beneficiaries from Nkitsing Hostel in the Sedibeng municipality, but the completed units had been invaded.

“There is structural damage in many units. Repairs were planned to start in 2019/20 but could not proceed due to invasion.”

Other hostels that had been invaded and vandalised include Ratanda and KwaMasiza Hostels in Sedibeng Municipality, and Sethokga Hostel in Ekurhuleni.

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