Joy and relief has turned to frustration for RDP housing beneficiaries Rhadebe Vellem and Nonkosazana Tyali after progress on their RDP houses in Ndlovini, Port Alfred, remained stalled for three years. They say the municipality promised to pay them back for materials they bought themselves so they could finish their houses and move in. Ndlambe says there was no such agreement, but that they are willing to come to an amicable agreement.
In 2019, Vellem and Tyali were thrilled to see their new RDP houses rising from their foundations.
“The building process was quick and we were happy,” said Tyali. “But after the roofing, there was no progress and we waited.
“When we saw other RDP houses being finished that had been started after ours, we started panicking and we went to the municipality seeking answers,” she said.
Vellem and Tyali started to speak to other subcontractors who confirmed that they had completed RDP houses in other areas.
Next up was the festive season when construction companies shut down and soon after they’re-opened in early 2020, the pandemic hit.
“No construction was allowed under the strict Covid-19 regulations,” Vellem said.
Meanwhile, Vellem and Tyali remained in the shacks they had hoped to have left by then.
That year, it rained a lot and they lost many of their belongings in successive downpours.
In July 2021 there was hope, briefly, as a different subcontractor arrived to take over.
“He did plastering, windows, doors, electric piping, plumbing and the first coat of paint. He also did the gutters and fascia board but he also left without finishing,” Tyali said.
Tyali said no electrical box had been installed in her RDP and did not get an electrical meter box. Running out of patience they approached Ndlambe Municipality and asked that they be allowed to finish up for themselves whatever was left.
They said they were allowed to finish up and move in on condition that they do not paint the exterior.
“They said we can paint the inside for ourselves and they would refund us. They said I must not paint the outside. We were told to keep the slips for everything we bought for ourselves. We bought our own paints and the door locks. We did not get that refund,” she said.
In November last year, a contractor had started painting their houses, but they were left half-finished, Tyali said.
“He only painted the first coat and left,” Tyali said.
Tyali, who is currently extending her RDP house, has not yet received the house keys. Neither has Vellem.
However, Ndlambe Municipality has refuted Vellem and Tyali’s claims.
“There was no agreement between the beneficiaries and the municipality to move in or paint their houses,” spokesperson Cecil Mbolekwa said.
Of the stalled progress, Mbolekwa said the contractor was closed for December holidays and was going to come back in January and complete all the work on both sites.
“The beneficiaries decided to move into the houses since it was December holidays and paint internally, as the external painting was already complete,” Mbolekwa said. “This they did on their own, not in agreement with Municipal officials.”
Mbolekwa said the houses’ foundations, wall plates, tiles, roof and ceiling, apron, electrification, glazing, baths and toilets, kitchen cupboards, plumbing and painting were completed by the contractor appointed by Ndlambe Municipality. The contractor was going to paint the internal walls in January 2022.
Mbolekwa explained that when beneficiaries move into houses by agreement with the Municipality, they sign a “happy letter” – written confirmation from the “client” that the construction is complete and is to their satisfaction.
Vellem and Tyali, however, had occupied the houses before they were complete and so the happy letter hadn’t happened. Mbolekwa said the municipality would contact the beneficiaries in an attempt to find an amicable solution.
“The Municipality can only compensate when it has a contractual agreement with a service provider,” Mbolwekwa said. “We cannot compensate people for occupying houses that are incomplete. Ndlambe Municipality (Housing Officials) will contact the two beneficiaries to come up with remedial action that will satisfy both parties,” he said.
Mbolekwa said the housing project, called Project 120, had been funded by the Department of Human Settlement. Seven contractors from local SMMEs were used to complete the project. Around R130 000 was allocated and around 120 houses were built.