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By Thembela Ntongana
First published on GroundUp

Nine years ago, families moved from Ezinkomeni to nearby Unit P in Mdantsane, East London’s largest township. They did so on the understanding that RDP houses would be ready for them in six months.

Today, they are still living in container homes.

Members of the 27 families say they are tired of living in the substandard container houses.

Mbulelo Siqila says: “We see people moving into the houses that we were told would be ours, and no one has explained why this is happening and what plans they have for us… The last time we saw our councillor was 2015 when we protested, and she said it is out of her hands.”

He says that when he went to check the housing list, he was told the municipality was still looking for land on which to build the houses.

“How can they still be looking for land when they told us that we would be here (Unit P) for six months? They are making fools out of us,” he says.

Siqila’s neighbour, Mbuyiselo Tsomi, says that when he went to check on the status of his RDP house he was told he needed to re-apply.

“We were all moved with the same promise, but each time we go and check we are told different stories,” he says. “All of us here qualify [for houses] – we are either unemployed or [earn] less than R3 500 working at the factories.”

‘Snakes come into our houses’

Residents showed GroundUp the poor condition of their temporary housing. The floors are damaged and residents use pieces of old wood for flooring. Old clothes are stuffed around windows, doors and under the roof to block the wind. The area has one tap and five toilets for the 27 families. There is no electricity. Their furniture is water damaged because rain gets into the homes.

“Snakes come into our houses,” said Nokuthula Petse. “This is not a place I want my grandchildren to grow up in. I do not want to die here.”

Her furniture, like that of many of her neighbours, is falling apart from the water that comes in during rainy days. She lifts up the old furniture material that she has used to cover her floor to show where, she claims, the snakes that almost bit her two-year-old grandchild came in.

Linda Matinise stays in one room with her husband and five children. At night she puts mattresses on the floor for her three children while she, her husband and two younger children share a double bed. She is unemployed and her husband works part time at a factory. They survive on child grants.

GroundUp contacted ward councillor Zameka Kodwa-Jagula, who said she could not comment on the matter.

We also received no response to an enquiry sent on Monday to the spokesperson at Buffalo City Municipality, Samkelo Ngwenya.

• Corruption Watch has published a new series of brochures addressing corruption in specific sectors, including housing. Visit this page to download our brochures on corruption in housing, traffic, health and schools.

• Photo: Thembela Ntongana/GroundUp