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
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