The Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) has raised concerns about the quality of RDP houses in South Africa. This comes after an incident in which an RDP house collapsed due to a powerful storm, killing 49-year old mother, Maria Mathebula and injuring two of her children.
The incident took place in Molalane village in the Maruleng area, east of the Limpopo Province last week, when a powerful storm ravaged houses leaving many families homeless.
The APF argues that while the Freedom Charter guarantees everyone the right to be “decently housed”, evidence of people’s dissatisfaction with the quality and size of the RDP houses in the country is growing. APF organiser Silumko Radebe spoke to SANGONeT, warning that the poor quality of houses provided by the government is linked to other service-delivery challenges.
However, Limpopo MEC for local government and housing, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has defended government and, according to an article in the Sowetan newspaper, said that the province’s RDP houses are properly inspected and approved.
The Maruleng Municipality has dismissed newspaper reports that the storm destroyed over 300 RDP houses. Many locals believe it might have been caused by what they call “mamogašwa”. Mamogašwa is a type of storm which is associated with the movement of a snake called mamogašwa from one location to the other. In the Maruleng area, people believe that such snakes move from one dam to the other.
The municipality’s disaster management officer, Benett Ntloana, says that it is not true that the storm destroy the RDP houses. He says in villages like Metz, good quality houses were damaged. “The storm seems to have damaged mainly houses roofed with a shiny corrugated iron”, he said.
The APF on the other hand blames the damage on government for shifting the responsibility of housing, by contracting private companies to build the RDP houses. The organisation says this approach compromises the quality of the houses built because such contractors are only interested in profit at the expense of the poor. APF believes that many of these contractors are taking poor people for granted by procuring cheap material for the RDP houses.
The organisation believes that municipalities can learn from the people housing project (PHP) in Kanana in the Vaal region where the municipality contracted local cooperatives from the area to build RDP houses commonly known as PHPs.
“These houses look much better than those that were built by private contractors,” argues Radebe.
It is worth noting that there are two types of RDP houses in the Maruleng Municipality. Ntloana argues that like other municipalities that are already implementing the PHP programmes, the municipality also provides houses through the provincial department of local government and others in the form of PHPs. He further says the latter are built by local contractors appointed by the municipality.
While the APF bemoans that the government often fails to engage NGOs in community-related matters, Ntloana admits that they were unable to invite NGOs and relief organisations for help because the storm happened so fast. All they could do was to help the affected families.
The municipality, in conjunction with Mopani District Municipality, the provincial department of local government and housing, the department of social development, and the community development workers, are currently providing tents and food parcels to the affected families.
With the increasing incidents of storms across the country, one expects local municipalities to have disaster management plans (DMP). It is also not clear if the government intends to capacitate municipalities to be able to respond to challenges relating to disaster management.
In light of this, Ntloana is of the view that DMPs can enable municipalities to work closely with role players such as the South African Weather Bureau on early warning systems.
The APF’s Radebe says that while natural disasters cannot be avoided, working together will help South Africans to get out of the culture of blaming each other when problems arise.
At the time of the interview with SANGONeT, the Maruleng municipality had provided tents to 25 affected families. It is also responsible for ensuring that food parcels and blankets are distributed to these families. However, Ntloana says the government should allocate adequate resources to vulnerable municipalities to help them tackle natural disasters.
“We do not have enough to deal with disasters and our area is too vulnerable,” cautions Ntloana.
The affected areas are: Willows, Molalane, Santeng, Butšwana, Wisda, Enable, Lorraine, Callies, Metz, Bismark and Hlohlokwe.
Organisations and individuals willing to help the affected families can make donations to Benette Ntloana, Disaster Officer, tel: 015 793 2341, mobile: 082 395 3695 or email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
As at 16 November 2008:
- 55 families have been assessed
- 37 food parcels provided
- 25 tents erected
- 140 blankets have been provided
- However, emergency houses are needed urgently
- Pictures courtesy of the Maruleng Municipality
- Butjwana Seokoma is the information coordinator at SANGONeT.