The Mercury: R31m ‘insult’ has residents fuming

Sihle Manda, The Mercury

Durban – Large families crammed into a controversial temporary housing project in Durban have reacted with disbelief that their tiny 2m x 2m shacks cost R35 000 each, describing living conditions there as “inhumane”.

Speaking to The Mercury at the weekend, several residents at the Kennedy Road informal settlement said the price tag on their homes was “a lie” and an insult.

The city built the transit camp last year after hundreds of shacks were gutted in a fire that left thousands homeless.

The Mercury, on visiting the site at the weekend, saw that the structures were cracked and in some cases repairs had been carried out, and water seeped through the floor in bad weather. Rainwater lies between the unit rows because of broken gutters. All this is in the midst of a heavy stench from a landfill site behind the informal settlement.

Several units have required patch-ups of broken walls.

On Friday The Mercury reported that a municipal forensic investigation had discovered that city officials had fraudulently colluded with bidders who were paid about R31 million on the shoddily constructed 700-unit temporary housing project.

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Durban transit camp in Kennedy Road waste never been collected and dirty water running in between corridors. Picture: Sibusiso NdlovuINDEPENDENT MEDIA

Bhekani Ngcobo said the home he lost in the fire was big enough for his family of eight, including his wife, four children and two grandchildren.

“As you can see, there is no privacy here. We share this bed and this mattress (on top of a wardrobe). It’s better when I work night shift because I sleep during the day while everyone is away or outside,” he said.

He said the conditions diminished his dignity. “We were promised RDP houses after the fire and not these matchboxes.”

His request for another room was turned down. He was now hoping to relocate and rent “a bigger place”.

Makhosandile Luthi, who shares two rooms with seven other people, agreed with Ngcobo.

“I had to fight for the second room. I shared the one room with my five children – one a 20-year-old daughter – my wife and a sister-in-law. How do I take a bath with just this room? There is no privacy.”

He said there was “no way” a room cost anything more than R8 000.

“These structures are not even strong enough. I had to repair the damn thing when it broke.”

The municipal public accounts committee report on the camp states that the committee’s preliminary investigation revealed “the possibility of cover quoting by a group of companies which appeared to be interrelated”.

“In examining the tender documents submitted, it was found that some of the companies shared contact details and the handwriting appeared to be similar.” According to the report, investigations found “associations” between five of the identified contractors shortlisted. “Submissions of competing tenders by associated service providers” were established. It also found “irregularities in submission to the Construction Industry Development Board”.

Misrepresentation in submissions and irregularities in the departmental evaluation of tenders were identified.

The report recommended that the companies be blacklisted and a criminal case be reported to the police. It wanted disciplinary action to be opened against officials “involved in collusive behaviour”.

The report does not reveal the names of the implicated companies and city officials.