Silence is deafening
SOUTH Africa has come a long way since the advent of democracy – many lives have been changed with thousands of people having their houses electrified, and others having access to essential services like fresh running water. While access to free education and health services remains paramount, the dignity of having homes stands out as one of the best things ever to have happened to disenfranchised communities.
Millions have received free RDP houses across the country, and many more houses are still being built to ensure that those who are unemployed or earn too little to qualify for bonded homes have a roof over their heads.
But then there’s a monster called corruption that sees many government officials selling houses that are supposed to be free to the highest bidders, unashamedly stealing from the poor despite earning fat salaries.
This leaves people like Siphiwe Shongwe subjected to living under squalid conditions in informal settlements like Lindelani in Ekurhuleni despite having had a house issued in her name.
The Star reported on Friday that a house in Tsakane Extension 11 was issued in the 51-year-old woman’s name in 1997, but 20 years on, she still lives in a shack. Had it not been for being refused credit due to a mysterious debt in 2010, Shongwe would never had known that she was a beneficiary of the government’s housing programme, and that she was a property owner.
When she approached the municipal offices in Brakpan, she discovered that the house issued in her name owed rates totalling R16 659, and a document from the Registrar of Deeds confirmed she was the homeowner. However, to this day, the occupants of the house refuse to vacate it, and the council has done nothing to assist her.
The owners claimed they bought the house from a former councillor who is now, ironically, chairperson of the council’s ethics committee. Ekurhuleni council spokesperson Themba Gadebe said allegations against the councillor were not true and that previous investigations and criminal cases against him had been withdrawn.
Gadebe has failed to say what the council was doing to get to the bottom of the matter. There are people residing in a house they aren’t entitled to, and this is a clear case of corruption, as they claim to have bought it. Documents indicate the house belongs to Shongwe, but the council is not saying anything. This is deeply disturbing.