By Lelethu Zono and Ntombentsha Yamiso
Following the 1994 democratic elections, many South Africans celebrated their newfound freedom and the prospect of owning their own homes through the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP). This is also in accordance with Section 26 (1) of the Constitution, which stipulates that everyone has the right to access adequate housing. However, for some families in Extension 7, this fruit of democracy has never been attained.
Thembeka Dingana, a 63-year-old pensioner, who suffers from arthritis and asthma, is one of many deprived of this fundamental right to adequate housing. Her shack continues exposing her and her family to the harsh winter conditions of rain and cold fronts hitting Makhanda regularly this winter.
Upon her return from her employment in East London, she found out that the construction had skipped her house and continued to build other houses in the same neighbourhood. At the time of her absence, her late niece had been looking after the house. Dingana is one of many residents who, due to suspected corruption, have lost the opportunity to obtain subsidy houses. Another resident not afforded an RDP house is Lulamile Nonxuba, who is raising his toddler under critical conditions in a shack. The lack of proper housing for Nonxuba and his family has left him with significant concerns for his child’s health.
During the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) Roadshow for Ward 11, held at the Dlukulu Clinic in Extension 7 on 16 March 2023, Mayor Yandiswa Vara pledged to build Dingana a house through donations. However, no progress or further communication has been made with Dingana about her ‘new house’. According to Dingana, ANC Ward Councillor Sakhiwo Zono advised that she builds her own house even though she cannot afford building materials, as she solely relies on her pension grant to make ends meet.
“I have lost all hope in the mayor and the ward councillor,” said Dingana. This and other false promises continue to add to the loss of Makana Municipality’s public integrity.
The Action for Accountability (A4A) team visited the Municipality’s housing department to investigate further. According to A4A findings, the Department of Human Settlement has not prioritized housing developments in Extension 7. With many families waiting for their new RDP houses in Makhanda townships for many years, it is convincing that the right to adequate housing is not realized for everyone, as the SA constitution states. The right of these residents to access fair housing as stipulated by section 26 (1) of the SA Constitution was violated during the provision of houses in Extension 7. There was an unequal provision of these houses, which questions the role that Makana Municipality played in ensuring that residents of Extension 7 that were on the housing list all received their homes.
Why was the Department of Human Settlements not held accountable by Makana Municipality for inadequate providing houses to Extensions 7 residents? Section 9 of the Housing Act states that every Municipality must take all reasonable and necessary steps within the framework of national and provincial housing legislation and policy to ensure that the inhabitants of its area of jurisdiction have access to adequate housing on a progressive basis.
During the IDP Budget Roadshow in May, Vara admitted that the Municipality faces many challenges because of poor basic infrastructure, which needs upgrading for services such as roads, water, sanitation, and electricity. The population capacity of Makhanda has also increased, and it can no longer rely on the old infrastructure. Vara also mentioned that she was aware there was a lack of communication with the Municipality and residents regarding housing development and information on when housing construction will resume and that this situation would soon improve.
“Makhanda has water and sewer challenges that need to be addressed before any housing construction can commence gain. By law, houses cannot be built without a flushing toilet. Therefore development will occur once these issues have been resolved,” said Vara.
This statement by Vara is aligned with Section 9 of the Housing Act, which states that “Every Municipality must take all reasonable and necessary steps within the framework of national and provincial housing legislation and policy to ensure that services in respect of water, sanitation, electricity. Roads, stormwater drainage, and transport are provided.
At the time of going to print, the A4A team had not received a response from the Communications Division of Makana Municipality.
Lelethu Zono and Ntombentsha Yamiso are CivActs members and Media Fellows in the Makhanda Action for Accountability (A4A) project at the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM).