Franklin, my dear, they don't seem to give a damn
They were meant to receive houses in a KZN project, now they are resigned to living out their days in mud huts
Nobelungu Nongogo sits outside her dilapidated mud-hut home, a bitter woman.
She shrugs and raises her arms to indicate that she has resigned herself to the fact that she will die without having a proper house she can call home.
Nongogo, 71, was among hundreds of people who braved chilly weather last month to witness President Cyril Ramaphosa hand out 10 of 400 title deeds to beneficiaries of the R37m low-cost housing project in Franklin township, outside Kokstad in southern KwaZulu-Natal.
But the septuagenarian was not there to celebrate the handover because she was not one of the lucky beneficiaries, despite having registered for a home in the housing project built by the Greater Kokstad Municipality and the KZN human settlements departgment.
Nongogo told Times Select she had registered for a reconstruction and development programme home in 2004. Last year she was over the moon when she was told by officials that she would be allocated house number 50 in the Franklin project.
But her family was surprised to discover a document bearing her signature and indicating that she would be allocated the house – because she could not write and had never signed any document.
She did not get the house and has now resigned herself to the fact that she will see out her days in the modest mud-hut home at the Vogelvlei Farm, about 7km from Franklin, where she has lived her entire life.
“I would have been very happy to get a house of my own, but I never got it. I have realised now that it all depends on who you are. I have given up hope about the house. I just went there last week to see him [Ramaphosa] because I think he is trying to help us, but now it seems like it was all in vain,” said the widowed pensioner.
She said former Ward 2 councillor in Franklin Michael Khutshwa had tried to help people re-register as beneficiaries when it became clear they might not receive houses. That, too, had not worked out.
The hopes of her neighbours, Robert Mathe Kumbaca, 61, and his partner, Nomawundi Lizzie Jiba, 70, of getting a house in the project also came to naught. They claimed a document that proved their names were on the list of beneficiaries was torn up by a ward committee member who told them it was old and therefore outdated.
“We’ve been voting all these years, but we don’t see any difference. It pains me that I could not get a house because farmers are chasing us out of their land and where are we going to live,” said Kumbaca.
Victoria Xilongile, 78, was forced to go and live with her son in the rural Donsumlenzana village near Mzimkhulu, about 39km away, after she too failed to get a house in Franklin, despite having registered as a beneficiary.
“I decided that because I did not get a house, let me go and live with my son. My heart is very sore and we hear stories that houses were sold. Some people say my name was called, but I could not get the house,” said Xilongile.
Khutshwa said he had tried to assist some of the potential beneficiaries while he was a councillor, but left everything to his successor.
“I don’t know what happened because I left in 2011. We left that to the municipality to continue with the project, but what happened I don’t know. The challenge is that everybody who takes over wants to do things their own way. If I leave you with a list of people, you have to continue with that list. I won’t know how other beneficiaries ended up not getting houses,” he said.
During the title-deed handover Ramaphosa warned beneficiaries against selling their houses, but it seems his warning came too late.
Times Select has seen proof that house number 399 in Franklin was bought from Ernest Mziwamadoda Jikazi, according to a Deeds Office report dated February 26 2018.
The document shows that the three-bedroom house, with a kitchen and a flushing toilet, was sold for R77,868 on February 14 2011 and registered on November 20 2015. It does not say who the buyer was.
Another beneficiary was Ward 2 councillor Ntombifuthi Nguza, but Kokstad mayor Bheki Mtolo defended Nguza, saying she qualified as a beneficiary before becoming a councillor in August 2016.
“I think it is imperative that I urgently clarify the matter that relates to councillor Nguza as the beneficiary of the Franklin Project. Yes indeed, it is true that councillor Ntombifuthi is the beneficiary at erf 78. The Franklin project was started in 2002 and completed approximately around 2013, and we can confidently confirm that during the project planning and completion councillor Nguza was a qualifying beneficiary due to her status at the time. She only became a councillor on August 3 2016, having been benefited already and the house having been already hers,” said Mtolo.
Times Select has also established that two other low-cost houses, meant for the country's poorest, were owned by a teacher and a local policeman.
Mtolo said according to human settlements policy, beneficiaries were only allowed to sell their properties after seven years.
“In the case of Franklin title deeds, there is no title deed condition which requires the municipality to sign transfer consent on disposal of property when the houses are sold. Persons therefore dispose of their houses with municipal consent. The municipality is not involved in private selling of low-cost houses,” he said.