Si­lence is deaf­en­ing

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

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.

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