R95m down the tubes as housing project picked apart brick by brick
A multi-million rand housing project completed in 2011 has been vandalised beyond recognition and the Gauteng provincial government is now spending more money to fix the mess.
The Gauteng Department of Human Settlements spent R95-million building 1‚870 low-cost housing units adjacent to the Dube Hostel in Soweto to house residents from Diepkloof and Mzimhlophe.
But hostel dwellers refused to move in‚ saying they could not afford to pay for the services and refused to allow other qualifying beneficiaries to move in.
The project then deteriorated into a nightmare for the residents living in and around the development.
Guards who protected the new development left the area after there were issues about their payment. Then vandalism began and it got worse by the day. Police in Soweto confirmed last year that people were being mugged in the deserted units and sometimes dead bodies would be found there.
On Tuesday The Times visited the project and it looked like a war zone.
All the roofs of the houses have been ripped off‚ along with steel fixtures. Only the walls remain in what was once a “state of the art” development. Underground pipes have also been completely dug out.
As The Times walked around the project with Democratic Alliance MPL Makashule Gana‚ there were still people moving around with wheel barrows feasting on the bricks. But next to the Dube railway station‚ government has begun fixing some of the damaged structures.
Milton Mthembu‚ one of the izinduna (headmen) at the hostel‚ explained the situation.
“People at the housing department told us they would allow anyone to get into the houses and not exclusively the hostel dwellers as government had initially promised. The housing people also told us that the rent would be about R700‚ which was higher than the R250 to R500 we had agreed upon‚” Mthembu said.
“People began by breaking the windows. The next thing‚ every night‚ there were trucks and vans which came and the roofs were ripped off. When we reprimanded people‚ they threatened us and said we are not cops.”
Government had started talking with the hostel dwellers so that beneficiaries can move in quickly to prevent a recurrence of vandalism‚ he said.
But Gana said the opposition party is going to take up the matter with the MEC in the Gauteng legislature‚ Paul Mashatile.
“We need to stop the stripping of this asset. We need to secure it so that people don’t come and take whatever is left of these buildings. We need to then get a proper assessment on the cost that will be needed to fix the place up. While this is being done‚ we need to make sure that a list of beneficiaries is published and everyone must know who are the beneficiaries‚” he said.
Hostels have been a thorny issue for the provincial government for years.
Hostel dwellers have complained that provincial government was not prioritising them because they belonged to a certain political party.
Initially‚ the ANC-led government wanted to totally scrap the hostel system and use an integrated housing development approach. This angered hostel dwellers as they believed some of the people still want to live in a hostel set-up.
Mashatile had lengthy consultations with the izinduna and agreed on a plan to renovate the structures and have occupants pay an affordable fee.
The Dube hostel is not the only project to be vandalised. In Diepkloof‚ the same happened to a similar development and government had to spend more money to fix the vandalised structures.
Mogomotsi Mogodiri‚ spokesperson for the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements‚ explained how government would deal with the Dube housing development.
“We are working with the City of Johannesburg to first repair the damaged residential units so that they can be allocated to people who can afford the rent … We are building RDP units next to the hostel to make sure that a resident of the hostel who does not qualify or can’t afford the rental can then be allocated RDP units next to the hostel.
But Mogodiri could not provide the actual cost of the fixing the units.
“Damage is still being quantified but the MEC committed to the fact that we will have to do everything that is possible to make sure that we repair and get people to rent so that we can be able to recover some of the losses. Some of the losses we may not be able to recover but at least if they are occupied and people are paying rent‚ then the investment made by the government makes sense‚” Mogodiri said.
He added that government wants the housing units to be occupied immediately or it would have to spend money on security to prevent vandalism.
“It is an integrated programme of government. One is the rental and the RDP‚ which will be built around the hostel. We have learned lessons with the first phase. Hence we are saying there will be various choices. It will be the rental one which we are repairing and the next will be the RDP group‚” Mogodiri said. “With the RDP‚ people must be assisted to apply so that there can be beneficiaries who are ready. A person must be able to go and see the stand number so that nobody is compromised. The first priority is the people of the hostel.”