The foun­da­tions of a happy home

An in­te­grated hous­ing de­vel­op­ment in Rock­dale has been build­ing homes and hand­ing them out since 2010. Cai­phus Kgosana takes a look

CityPress - - Careers -

Solomon Mkhwanazi and three of his friends hud­dle un­der the shade of a small tree that’s been planted in his front gar­den. It is a scorching day in Rock­dale, near Mid­dle­burg, in Mpumalanga. The men take turns to sip from a bot­tle of partly frozen wa­ter to avoid de­hy­dra­tion. Mkhwanazi (50) oc­cu­pied the house back in 2013. It is a mod­est, square struc­ture that was built us­ing red­dish face brick, and the roof is made of sheets of cor­ru­gated iron. A short, paved path­way that shoots through a neatly laid out lawn leads to the steel door that serves as the main en­trance to the house.

The lean man gets up and ex­tends a hand of wel­come. “This is my home, please come in.”

When he is not out look­ing for work at the nearby fac­to­ries, Mkhwanazi en­joys spend­ing time with friends in his house.

Rock­dale set­tle­ment was de­vel­oped as a joint ven­ture be­tween the Steve Tsh­wete Lo­cal Mu­nic­i­pal­ity and min­ing com­pany Op­ti­mum Coal. In 2005, a por­tion of the Rock­dale farm was pur­chased by the Nkan­gala Dis­trict Mu­nic­i­pal­ity from Kan­hym Es­tates. The mu­nic­i­pal­ity then un­der­took a com­pre­hen­sive town plan­ning process, which led to the es­tab­lish­ment of a new township. About 3 000 stands were de­vel­oped and ear­marked for an in­te­grated hous­ing de­vel­op­ment that would fea­ture a mix of low-cost and mid­dle-in­come hous­ing units.

In 2010, then hu­man set­tle­ments min­is­ter Tokyo Sexwale handed over 20 houses to ex­cited ben­e­fi­cia­ries. The first houses went to the el­derly – those born be­tween 1910 and 1930, many of whom had been on the wait­ing list since 1996. Of the 20 ben­e­fi­cia­ries, five were liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties. Since then, thou­sands of younger ben­e­fi­cia­ries have been al­lo­cated houses in Rock­dale, turn­ing it into a vi­brant set­tle­ment.

Rock­dale is lo­cated close to an in­dus­trial area in Mid­dle­burg, which means it is close to work op­por­tu­ni­ties. It is also strate­gi­cally placed near the N4 high­way, mak­ing it eas­ier for residents to ac­cess ad­ja­cent towns in search of work and other eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties. De­signed and built by three lo­cal con­trac­tors, the homes are of a high qual­ity – a notch up from the stan­dard RDP house. They com­prise an open-plan lounge and kitchen area, two bed­rooms and a bath­room. The homes were elec­tri­fied on oc­cu­pa­tion, and hot wa­ter gey­sers and show­ers have been in­stalled.

Mkhwanazi has lived with so­cial chal­lenges for most of his life – he used to live in the Plain set­tle­ment on the other side of Mid­dle­burg in a cramped fam­ily home. It was while work­ing as a petrol at­ten­dant that he also dou­bled up as a me­chanic. His mother had put her name down for an RDP house some years be­fore. With the de­vel­op­ment of Rock­dale, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity went back to its wait­ing list and be­gan al­lo­cat­ing houses to those who had been wait­ing for long pe­ri­ods for their names to be called out. Mkhwanazi’s mother was one of them.

“This was my late mother’s house. I moved in here with her. I must say, life in Rock­dale has been great. We have very lit­tle to com­plain about, ex­cept the lack of jobs,” he said.

Mkhwanazi has two chil­dren who stay with their mother in an­other part of Mid­dle­burg. He shares the house with a ten­ant, who is rent­ing out the spare bed­room. He spends most of his days seek­ing piece jobs at the lo­cal fac­to­ries. On a lucky week, he gets al­lo­cated shifts for two or three days, en­abling him to earn some money to sur­vive.

Bright ce­ramic tiles line the open-plan floor that makes up the liv­ing room and the kitchen. But that is just about the only mod­ern fea­ture in the house. A large, old wooden ta­ble and two chairs with red cush­ions take up most of the liv­ing room. There’s a small tele­vi­sion set that has seen bet­ter days on top of a wooden stand. A sil­ver makeshift ash­tray con­tain­ing cig­a­rette stubs keeps the TV com­pany. The white linen cur­tain that cov­ers the liv­ing room win­dow has vis­i­ble stains from an ob­vi­ous lack of reg­u­lar wash­ing. A small two-door fridge and rusty cab­i­nets make up most of the kitchen.

Mkhwanazi knows, how­ever, how lucky he is to be call­ing this house his own.

“I’m very thank­ful for this house at a time when so many peo­ple are still liv­ing in shacks. We live in har­mony with our neigh­bours and we are also very close to pub­lic trans­port. What more can one ask for?”

The liv­ing sit­u­a­tion couldn’t be more dif­fer­ent at Siphiwe Makha­bane’s home, a few streets away. Her din­ing room fea­tures a com­fort­able cerise lounge set, a small ta­ble and a three-piece wall unit with glass fin­ishes. A flatscreen tele­vi­sion and DStv de­coder take up half the space on the wall unit. An orange clay or­na­ment adds to the dec­o­ra­tion.

Her com­pact but neatly laid out kitchen has a sil­ver dou­ble-door fridge and a cab­i­net with a sink, on top of which clean dishes are neatly stacked on a plas­tic dish drainer.

Makha­bane (57) lives with her part­ner and 16-year-old son. A pic­ture of the three to­gether has been neatly framed and dis­played on the up­per part of the wall unit. She does not work and is un­der no pres­sure to find a job. “I am lucky to have a sup­port­ing part­ner, so I don’t ac­tu­ally need to work. I re­ally en­joy spend­ing time in this house, tak­ing care of it.”

The fam­ily moved into the house last year. Makha­bane was liv­ing in Mh­luzi, the main township in Mid­dle­burg, and had for­got­ten that she had reg­is­tered for an RDP house when she re­ceived a call in­form­ing her that she had been se­lected as a hous­ing ben­e­fi­ciary for the ex­tended part of Rock­dale, where 500 more houses had been built. The Mpumalanga de­part­ment of hu­man set­tle­ments will be build­ing a fur­ther 205 units in 2016/17.

Apart from leak­ing toi­lets, which they have re­ported to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity, there is very lit­tle for her to com­plain about.

“Life is good here. We are happy.”

AM­BI­TIOUS DE­VEL­OP­MENT Rock­dale in Mpumalanga was de­vel­oped as a joint ven­ture be­tween the Steve Tsh­wete Lo­cal Mu­nic­i­pal­ity and min­ing com­pany Op­ti­mum Coal

THANK­FUL Solomon Mkhwanazi ar­rived in Rock­dale, near Mid­dle­burg, in 2013. Although he is un­em­ployed, hav­ing a proper roof over his head means he doesn’t worry too much

SET­TLED Siphiwe Makha­bane’s two-bed­room home in Rock­dale is her pride and joy. She en­joys tidy­ing it up and tak­ing good care of it for her part­ner and 16-year-old son

SAFE AND SOUND Siphiwe Makha­bane’s friends, Zanele Madon­sela (left) and Dan Nkosi­home, pay her a visit

CON­TENT Solomon Mkhwanazi says his mother got the house from the mu­nic­i­pal­ity af­ter wait­ing for years

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