Outrage as most needy vanish from housing list
Probe into how names of vulnerable people mysteriously disappeared from list of beneficiaries in housing project
Gogo Regina Hadebe uses a walking stick to go down a steep and tricky path littered with shards of broken glass and other debris between houses to get to her mud and wattle shack she is renting for R200 a month.
The dilapidated shack in Copesville in Pietermaritzburg is covered with an old tarpaulin on one side that shields her from the wind and the cold wintry days of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.
Gaping holes line the wall where it meets the roof and a mud floor under her wobbly feet. She has neither electricity nor running water to even bath or wash clothes, and she does not have children to look after her. She uses a beer bottle as a candleholder.
The 78-year-old partially blind Hadebe was profiled by community caregivers as an urgent beneficiary of the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government’s Operation Sukuma Sakhe housing initiative, which prioritises households that need urgent intervention.
The programme prioritises the poorest of the poor, mostly falling within the definition of “vulnerable groups”, and these include the indigents, women, children and disabled persons.
But Hadebe’s name mysteriously disappeared from the list of beneficiaries of the R10m housing project, which saw 117 houses being built for vulnerable groups in various wards within the Msunduzi Local Municipality in the provincial capital city.
“I don’t know how I didn’t get a house because I was given a number on the list of beneficiaries... I am tired of renting at my age, and I have to use my pension, which is not enough to pay rent and buy food,” said Hadebe.
While there is still hope that the septuagenarian who survives on the R1,720 old-age grant may eventually get a house of her own, wheelchair-bound Zakhele Hlwathika was not so lucky. He died recently without realising his dream of owning a house he was promised from the same project.
Now Thabiso Zulu, ANC activist and friend of late ANCYL leader Sindiso Magaqa, who blew the whistle on alleged corruption in the Umzimkhulu Local Municipality, has also cried fraud and corruption in the housing project.
Zulu has pleaded with the presidency and co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Zweli Mkhize to talk to provincial human settlements MEC Ravi Pillay about Hadebe’s and Hlwathika’s plights, but to no avail. Zulu claims he has been pleading with Pillay for two years on behalf of Hadebe and Hlwathika, who died two weeks ago. He claims corruption is involved and that the houses have gone to politically-connected individuals instead of those who should have taken ownership.
Now the claims are being investigated by public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and the provincial human settlements department.
Local councillor Sphamandla Madlala has been accused of allocating one house to his stepdaughter and another one to his mother-in-law.
But Madlala denied the allegations. “It’s not true. I have responded to the public protector about those false allegations. My mother-in-law has a house in Ofafa in Ixopo, and I have not adopted any daughter.”
Human settlements spokesperson Mbulelo Baloyi confirmed the matter about Hadebe and Hlwathika was brought to Pillay’s attention in January.
“A physical house-to-house investigation was done to verify beneficiaries. This took some time. We do not wish to preempt the findings at this time.”
On allegations against Madlala, Baloyi said: “This is one of the allegations that have been investigated. The matter will be dealt with in the report. The department has a zero tolerance for fraud and corruption. We will follow up on the implementation of all recommendations.”
Baloyi also confirmed Hadebe was on the approved list of beneficiaries and said her house would be constructed on Lazarus Drive in Copesville and a contractor had been appointed.
However, he denied that Hlwathika was on the list of beneficiaries.
He also confirmed they had received a number of complaints from local residents about the names of indigent people who were profiled as beneficiaries but whose names vanished from the list.
“We have received these complaints. The matter is subject to a full investigation. The first draft report has been prepared. We are finalising responses from persons who are implicated. The Msunduzi municipality will be expected to discuss the report, adopt it and deal with the recommendations,” said Baloyi.