Sharing houses poses problems

By Time of article published Jun 4, 2012

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The letters A and B have a significant and painful meaning for some residents in Mohlakeng.

Ellen Gabashane has lived in Mohlakeng since 1969. She moved there during apartheid as part of the resettlement programme. When she moved there she was told that she would be the owner of a four-room house, but because of housing shortages her dream home was divided into two – the other half given to another family. The inter-leading door of the house was closed up to divide the house.

The house with the front door facing the street is called house A and the other with the main door facing the back, house B.

Her husband, Eric Gabashane, 70, said, “sharing a yard has problems on its own. We share the same tap of water but when billing accounts from the municipality arrive we find that we pay very different prices – mind you we share the same toilet.”

This is the reality of the many residents living on Kgama and Moraka streets.

Salaminah Ntsoleng, 48, lives in house A on Moraka Street. She shares the yard with another family in house B, plus seven other shacks in the yard, which house seven different families. Ntsoleng’s problem is that if her immediate neighbour in house B does not pay her share of the water bill, the municipality cuts off the water and she ends up suffering, regardless of the fact that her billing account is up to date.

“Last month I had to go pay after the water supply was cut even when I didn’t owe a cent. I paid because I need water to live.” Ntsoleng’s other troubles include electricity being cut off because the municipality can’t tell which house is in arrears. When they cut off her electricity she was told to pay a reconnection fee of R8 094. She had to erect a kitchen outside her two-room house because of a lack of space inside the house. She lives with two of her grandchildren. “We live in intolerable conditions,” she said.

Jane Thekiso is not so lucky. Thekiso, 45, stays with 10 relatives in their two-room house. “The women sleep in the bedroom and the guys in the kitchen. Where is our privacy and dignity as people?” Thekiso asks. In the morning, confusion rules when the children are preparing to go to school and some of the adults to work.

“You don’t know if you should use the stove to make breakfast for the children or warm the water so everyone can take a bath.”

She is also tired of quarrelling with her neighbour because of billing inconsistencies, the communal toilet and other issues.

Both house A and B, have tenants living in the same yard in shacks. They also fight over the conduct of some of their tenants.

“We need the tenants if we want to live. We don’t work and those with work only work eight days in a month,” Thekiso says.

The residents claim they were told that one family would be moved from the two-room house to another place so that house A and B could become one household.

According to Mongo Mazula, 34, they have been part of an indigent study for the past three years. The indigent study was supposed to have them registered as families needing relief from the municipality by cutting or reducing their water and electricity costs. A document on the municipality website shows that 600 two-room residents applied for the subsidy and that 600 were approved.

“The problem is that our wards are ran by councillors who don’t stay here and know nothing of our troubles,” says Philip Mphahlele, 74. “We live in appalling conditions. Eighteen years of freedom and we are still not free.”

“We have told our councillors that we are suffering, help us out of these living conditions and then they tell us they know nothing about our … predicament,” says Thekiso.

A 2010/11 service-delivery and budget-implementation document available on the Randfontein Local Municipality shows the municipality is aware that there are 3 161 households in backyard rooms and about 8 000 households in backyard shacks.

The residents were set to have a community meeting to discuss housing issues with Lazarus Matshuisa, Ward 16 councillor, but the meeting has been postponed to Monday next week.

Meanwhile, Gauteng MEC for Local Government and Housing Humphrey Mmemezi announced last week that his department had set aside R150 million to acquire land for low-income and affordable housing.

The Star Africa made several attempts to get comments from the Randfontein Local Municipality and the Department of Human Settlements, but without response.

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