Ik­a­geng man builds his dream dou­ble-storey home

Tired of wait­ing for an RDP house that might never come, Thabo Kolodi made his dou­ble-storey dreams a re­al­ity

DRUM - - Contents - BY KAIZER NGWENYA PIC­TURES: ONKGOPOTSE KOLOTI

HIS neigh­bours and even his friends and fam­ily snig­gered and sneered when he rolled up his sleeves and an­nounced he was go­ing to build his own home.

Fed up of wait­ing for an RDP house, Thabo Kolodi was tak­ing mat­ters into his own hands.

And so, over the course of about a year, the 34-year-old painstak­ingly gath­ered dis­carded build­ing ma­te­ri­als and sup­plies and made his dream come true. Now the peo­ple who laughed at him can only stand back and ad­mire what Thabo has cre­ated.

The dou­ble-storey, seven-room house, with its im­mac­u­lately trimmed hedge and glo­ri­ous gar­den, stands out like a lush oa­sis amid the sea of shacks and small RDP houses in Ik­a­geng near Potchef­stroom in North West.

Thabo is a gar­dener by trade and ev­i­dence of his green thumb is ev­ery­where. His roses are com­ing into bloom, dif­fer­ent kinds of aloes are flour­ish­ing in an old wheel­bar­row and the freshly mown lawn is as green as a golf course.

A va­ri­ety of birds make a sym­phony of sound as they visit to suck nec­tar from the flow­ers.

“If you guys come here in the morn­ing you’ll see many more dif­fer­ent species of birds,” Thabo says. “Oh, they’re so beau­ti­ful and it makes me so happy to see them in my gar­den.”

Thabo, who is also a handy­man, says work­ing with his hands gives him mean­ing and pur­pose.

“Each of us must work for his or her own im­prove­ment,” he says.

THABO ar­rived in Ik­a­geng in 2008 and built a one-room shack. “There were lots of peo­ple start­ing to stake their claims and build­ing shacks here,” he re­calls. In 2012 he ap­plied for an RDP house and his ap­pli­ca­tion was ap­proved in 2014.

But when noth­ing had hap­pened three years later, he de­cided to take things into his own hands and built his dream house for him­self, girl­friend Di­makatso Tsepe (32) and their 10-year-old daugh­ter, Hap­pi­ness.

“It wasn’t easy. When your ex­pec­ta­tions turn to zero, we ask many ques­tions – ‘ Why me? What have I done to de­serve this?’ We start to wal­low in self­pity and for­get we can dig deep to find some­thing within our­selves that can

make us cre­ative and happy. We may be small, but we are ca­pa­ble of very big things,” Thabo says sagely.

He told him­self no mat­ter how hard life may seem, he would suc­ceed. “Nel­son Man­dela and Barack Obama in­spired me,” he says, sit­ting on a bench made of pal­ettes in his gar­den. “They wrote their own chap­ters in life. I also want to write my own chap­ter.

“Peo­ple won’t have time for you if you’re al­ways an­gry or com­plain­ing. I didn’t want to blame peo­ple for not build­ing me an RDP house so I started build­ing my own house. I also wanted to change the mind­set of peo­ple.

“It was a painful jour­ney some­times. Many peo­ple were laugh­ing at me and say­ing I was los­ing my mar­bles. Even some of my fam­ily mem­bers weren’t sup­port­ive, or weren’t sure what I was try­ing to do. The pain is se­vere when you don’t get sup­port from the peo­ple who are close to you.”

But a seven-room house proved the naysay­ers well and truly wrong.

IT’S amaz­ing what peo­ple throw away, says Thabo, whose en­tire home is made of re­cy­cled build­ing waste. His place has two bed­rooms, a liv­ing room, a guest bed­room and a bath­room on the ground floor. On the first floor, there is an­other bed­room, lounge and a bal­cony to en­ter­tain guests.

The bal­cony has sen­sor lights that il­lu­mi­nate the gar­den at night.

The fur­ni­ture is all hand-me-downs from his em­ploy­ers in Potchef­stroom while the blinds in his bed­room and main lounge down­stairs and the cane lounge fur­ni­ture on the bal­cony were bought at a pawn shop. The bur­glar bars were sal­vaged from a dump­site.

Thabo re­counts walk­ing around the town­ship and the Potchef­stroom sub­urb where he works and ask­ing builders to give him waste ma­te­ri­als rather than to throw it away.

“One man’s trash is an­other man’s trea­sure. I al­ways tell town­ship folks to pull them­selves up with their boot­straps. We can’t sit about and wait for help. And we can’t spend the lit­tle money we have on things like build­ing ma­te­ri­als if we don’t have money to build our dream homes. We have to be in­no­va­tive,” he says.

“Peo­ple in the town­ship would say I was crazy. I used to pick up stuff in the street and bring home all sorts of things I found at the dump­site which I thought would be use­ful in my pro­ject.”

Thabo com­pleted ma­tric in 2009 and was un­able to fur­ther his stud­ies, de­spite a fam­ily in Potchef­stroom of­fer­ing to pay for him to go to univer­sity, he says. “I had to work and look af­ter my mom and sib­lings,” he ex­plains.

He is nonethe­less thrilled that even with his mea­gre earn­ings as a gar­dener, he has been able to reg­is­ter his brother Mpho for a BA de­gree at North West Univer­sity’s Mafikeng cam­pus and help his sis­ter, Doreen (24), who has a BEd de­gree from the same in­sti­tu­tion.

Thabo has a few more fin­ish­ing touches to add to his prop­erty and then hopes to start a new pro­ject, teach­ing the neigh­bour­hood kids how to build doll­houses.

“I have some pal­lets in my yard which I want to use to build doll­houses for the chil­dren. The chil­dren don’t have much to do, so when school fin­ishes they come home and watch TV or hang around the streets. This will keep them oc­cu­pied.”

An­other in­spi­ra­tional fig­ure in his life is the late the­o­ret­i­cal physi­cist, Stephen Hawk­ing. Thabo loves quot­ing the math­e­ma­ti­cian to em­pha­sise his points.

“I think Hawk­ing was God’s mes­sen­ger. Here to tell us we can achieve great things in life, even if we’re phys­i­cally or men­tally chal­lenged. I al­ways tell peo­ple liv­ing in in­for­mal set­tle­ments they will never de­velop if they don’t have dreams.

“I’m a dreamer, and I know that one day I’ll drive a Porsche!”

Then he picks up a gar­den fork and starts tend­ing to his flowerbeds as birds sing among the fo­liage.

‘It was a painful jour­ney some­times. Many peo­ple laughed at me’

LEFT: Thabo Kolodi stands in his lounge, proud of the work he’s done. BE­LOW: Thabo’s house is fully fur­nished with items gifted to him by em­ploy­ers and sec­ond-hand fur­ni­ture. RIGHT: His favourite spot is the bal­cony.

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