Busisiwe Mkhwebane visits family who had Atteridgeville house destroyed by Red Ants
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Pretoria - In 2017, the Mhlahla family in Atteridgeville had their brick house illegally destroyed by the Red Ants, who were hired by the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements to execute an eviction order.
Since then the family has been living in a shack and had for years been harbouring hopes that the destroyers of their property would come to their senses and rebuild it.
However, when that never materialised they reached out to the Public Protector's office to lodge a complaint against the department and the Red Ants.
Last year, the Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane found that the department was in the wrong for authorising the Red Ants to bulldoze the house because it fell outside the perimeter of the eviction order.
That was after the public protector had investigated the matter based on the complaint lodged by Lindi Mhlahla on behalf of her parents.
Mkhwebane visited the family to monitor progress made by the department in terms of implementing her remedial action, which included the rebuilding of the structure.
She said her office normally opted to resolve issues speedily through an alternative dispute resolution because investigations were often "long-drawn".
"In this instance we had to do the investigation because the department was not co-operating with the institution. So hence we investigated and we issued the report," she said.
She, however, expressed satisfaction that justice had finally been done with the house's rebuilding.
According to her, at least 90 to 95 % of the public protector's work was done to assist the poor and the marginalised people at grassroots.
"That is the core of the vision 2023 where we have people like Lindi, the daughter of Mhlahla family, who stood up lodging complaints, making sure that she follows up even after we have issued the report," Mkhwebane said.
Constance Mhlahla, the mother of the affected family of six, told Mkhwebane that a child and her husband Alfred Mhlahla were previously injured inside the shack after cardboard fell on them due to a strong wind, which shook the structure.
Despite the fact that the house was razed to the ground four years ago, the woman said she still has sleepless nights because of the incident.
"I won't say that I am happy about all that is happening. I think that maybe I will be able to sleep after they are done with rebuilding," she said.
The building of the house started last month and it was anticipated that it would be completed at the end of August.
In April the Gauteng Human Settlement MEC Lebogang Maile visited the family and apologised for the damage done to their property.
At the time he promised to get the plan for the house speedily approved and build it through a public-private partnership.
He also said disciplinary action would be taken against officials who had delayed resolving the matter.