Five years and two building contractors but these homes aren’t finished yet

Fort Beaufort resident Physica Bowtie lives and does laundry on the site of her home that was due to be renovated years ago. Since then her house has deteriorated and barely has walls. Photos: Mokhasali Al-Sizani

  • About 128 families in Fort Beaufort say they were left homeless when contractors abandoned a project to renovate their homes.
  • RDP homes were poorly built by local contractors in the early 2000s.
  • The Department of Human Settlements pledged to rebuild and restore the homes in 2016 but there have been setbacks over the years.
  • The last contractor gave up renovating the last 128 homes remaining, and these families have been living with relatives or in shacks next to their plots ever since.

About 128 families from the Hillside Phase 3 project in Fort Beaufort say they were left homeless when their new home renovation project was not completed.

The beneficiaries complained about the lack of cement foundations in the houses, the absence of plaster on the walls, the absence of ceilings and cracks in the walls. The National Human Settlements Administration has included these homes in its patch program with the county administration as the implementing agency.

Residents say they moved in with relatives or built shacks next to their homes, with some homes having to be completely demolished while others needed major repairs. The project initially started in 2016.

The first hiccup occurred in 2017 when construction workers stopped working due to a wage dispute with the contractor. “The contractor said he had no cash and that workers looted construction materials such as taps, pipes, showers and washbasins. They also took gogo tanks to pay for the work themselves,” said Zwillach Stoweil, president of Ward 20 at the South African National Civil Organization (SANCO), explaining how This project has been overshadowed by corruption and mismanagement.

A new contractor was appointed to complete the work in 2019. The contractor worked on the site until May 2021 and was scheduled to run until December but left the site. The remaining materials appear to have been left in the home of the community liaison officer.

Resident Physica Bowtie, 60, said her home was built in 2004 and was due for renovation. “It had huge cracks from ceiling to floor. It was built with a lot of sand. On windy days the walls and ceiling shook. On wet days the walls were wet inside. It had no cement foundation,” she said.

Bowtie said her enthusiasm about the patch project was short-lived. She had to return to her parents’ house with her 23-year-old son. “The contractor took our materials like zinc, bricks and rafters. Most of my furniture was damaged. I came to my RDP site just to do the laundry.” Her house is currently only a foundation and half a wall.

Nomakula Sezani and her six children live in a hut next to her RDP home. They still use the toilet inside the house, although there are no doors.

Nomakula Cesani, 60, lives in a two-room cottage with her six children next to their unfinished home. “I feel trapped in this cold hut and suffer from arthritis. The contractor left my house without a roof, windows and doors. Heavy rain and wind damage what is left. We use the toilet inside the unfinished house. Everyone sees us because there are no doors,” she said.

Cesani said that when her home was demolished, she asked her relatives to store her furniture, but now they want their space back.

Thandolito Kangabe, the contractor’s former community liaison officer, told GroundUp that the new contractor has built and renovated 266 homes. He said Human Settlements then extended the contract with an additional 100 homes, in addition to the 28 homes left by the previous contractor. But the new contractor didn’t do all the work.

Yanga Funani, a spokesperson for Eastern Cape Human Settlements, said the excuse the contractor made was the impact of Covid-19 on their work. He said the management lost no money because the contractors were only getting paid for each finished unit. “The remaining budget is 11.8 million rand to complete the renovations. “There was enough money to pay them if they made valid claims,” Funani said.

Asked when the project would be completed, Fanni only said, “We are in the process of appointing a new contractor.”

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