The Daily Dispatch investigation into the alleged Eastern Cape housing delivery revealed many “failures” it discovered during its two months investigation in to the housing delivery in the province. While this can be applauded as a brilliant piece of journalism, the published articles don’t reflect the intervention and recovery measures taken by the committed officials in the department to avert the situation.
The department is on record conceding to the challenges relating to housing development particularly to the most needy and vulnerable groups in the province and it has also on numerous occasion pronounced on the turnaround acceleration plan which saw the department delivery over 15 000 homes in the previous financial year. In all projects handed over beneficiaries included disabled, elderly and the youth.
RDP housing programme was introduced to redress the imbalances of the apartheid legacy by providing decent housing to poor people who were victims of the land segregation policy by the apartheid government.
The intention of this programme was to build houses for all people who couldn’t afford them. Over the years it emerged during government initiated investigations and collapse of many houses that the housing system had been abused and not used for the direct purposes it was intended for. Many contractors had built shoddy houses and didn’t train people under the peoples housing programme.
The quality of the houses built in the province began to collapse and the size of the house was too small for people to move around. Government also introduced the people’s housing project which envisaged contractors training housing owners to build their own homes and in the process acquire skills which would benefit them economically in the future. This programme was also mismanaged by contractors who did not train people, but allowed them to build houses without proper training.
As divulged in the investigation to determine the extent of the damages needed to be fixed by the department in its rectification programme, it was found that people were not skilled to build houses; hence all the defects in the houses occurred.
A visit to Mt Alyff and Mount Frere last year where one of the rectification projects was unblocked confirmed all these inadequacies and shoddy workmanship by contractors who built those houses. It is clear from the houses that are under the rectification programme that the contractors didn’t train people as they were supposed to and that resulted in many houses having structural defects.
The national department has initiated a project aimed the housing rectification programme with the sole purpose to rectify all the defective houses in the purpose. The process of rectifying defective houses begun last year and contractors were appointed to proceed with speed in rectifying the defective houses. Before the actual rectification can begin, both national and provincial departments sent technical experts throughout the province to visit all the defective houses to determine the extent of the damage that needed to be fixed and at what cost.
Some of the houses are being demolished and built from scratch while the rest will be fixed and delivered to their beneficiaries. Rectification of the defective houses has begun in most areas of the province including areas such as Chris Hani, Alfred Nzo, Buffalo City, OR Tambo district and many more.
The department assumed the responsibility of appointing contractors from 28 June 2008 with the expectation of managing the performance of the contractors and the quality of the houses delivered to the people. The department has also appointed NHBRC and Stemele Bosch Africa as implementing agents for the rectification programme. These agents would ensure that all houses when completed meet the required standards and are safe for occupation by beneficiaries.
National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) has also been roped in not only as regulatory body but also as a quality assuror on the rectification of houses which were built after 1994 by emerging contractors. NHBRC was given houses to rectify in 2007. NHBRC was appointed in January 2007 and did assessments in March 2007 and rectification started in March 2008 through contractors appointed by NHBRC.
Temporary shelter: the outside walls are made of fibre-cement, and the inner part of the walls is corrugated nutec roof sheet. This shelter is fire and water resistant. This shelter is intended for emergency cases especially for people freezing in the cold without any shelter.
Slow progress: the progress was slow due to the capacity of the contractors, scarcity of material around small towns, and some other materials have to be ordered outside Eastern Cape province. However there is a plan in place to increase the capacity of contractors by appointing more others and put performing contractors on site. NHBRC will increase the capacity of the contractors doing housing rectification.
Small Business Administration (SBA) was also appointed to assist NHBRC to speed up the process. SBA is on site working on the remainder of houses which need rectification.
Safety measures: When the house is found to be defective the beneficiaries are requested to move out or they are moved out to temporary shelters (fibre-cement house) and that defective house is demolished and rebuilt. There are precautionary measures such as health and safety on site. Sign boards which show that there is construction taking place.
The department has established a Technical MUNIMEC an intergovernmental forum that brings together the MEC, Mayors and their administrative officials to address housing challenges including spending allocated funds for housing development. This forum meets quarterly to identify and find solutions to any problems identified on sites. Twenty officials performing housing functions within municipalities were taken through a housing and policy management Short Learning Programme at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University as part of hands-on support to municipalities preparing them for effective management of housing programmes.
Twenty three officials from the two accreditation pilots in the province (BCM, NMBMM) were taken through a Housing Subsidy System (HSS) course paving way for decentralisation of HSS to ensure speedy updating of information, financial management and service delivery reporting agility.
The Breaking New Ground Policy framework states the future of housing delivery must be orientated toward creating more sustainable human settlements i.e. settlements that attract housing investment from the state should have schools, clinics, recreational facilities, running water and adequate sanitation and most importantly they need to have access to a means to earn a living, which is not easily achieved.
The department is already implementing the breaking new ground policy in its housing projects in the province in line with national guidelines and response to rural development and housing.
The department is cognisant of the challenges it faces and is also equal to responding to the task and it will dare not fail.
Issued by: Department of Housing, Eastern Cape Provincial Government
30 July 2009
Source: Department of Housing, Eastern Cape Provincial Government (http://www.echousing.ecprov.gov.za/index.php)