A 69-year-old grandmother should have been enjoying her retirement in her own home but instead she is the only person without a house in A Section, Makwetu Street, Site C.
In 2017, Bomikazi Sithela was temporarily moved from her site by the Mandela 497 PHP project committee because a house was going to be built for her as part of the Department of Human Settlements People’s Housing Process (PHP) programme.
Four years later, she finds herself living in appalling conditions.
Ms Sithela shares a three-room shack with her son and brother.
To make things worse, the site where her house should have been built has been occupied by other people.
She says it has been a losing battle to get her house but she will fight on.
“I have been lied to by local committees and the government. At some point Bonginkosi Madikizela (the former MEC for Housing) was here and he made some promises. I was moved from my site because the house was to be built in 2017. Now the shack that I am in is crumbling down. You can push it down and it will fall. I feel that the government has failed me. I have been sent from pillar to post by all. I feel somebody is not telling me the truth of what happened to my house. People sell people’s houses and win,” she said.
The disabled mother said she has appealed for media intervention because no one seems to care except her friends and some neighbours. “What pains me is that people are now putting shacks on my site. I tried to speak to a lady that has her shack on it, she was rude and disrespectful to me. But I blame the local leaders and committees for allowing such a thing to happen. I reported it on numerous occasions but no one takes care. I feel like a foreigner in my own space. Had my house been built, I would not have such problems,” she told Vukani.
Friends and neighbours said the government had failed Ms Sithela.
Lungiswa Makalima said it was shameful that a senior citizen can live in such deplorable conditions. “This is not a freedom that we fought for. I have been up and down with her trying to get her rights. Look at the shack now, she is exposed to rain and wind and yet she was supposed to get a house a long time ago. I will not rest until she gets to her house,” said Ms Makalima.
Another concerned neighbour, who asked not to be mentioned for fear of harassment, believes that the blame should be put squarely on the local councillor and the local committee who went around promising Ms Sithela help but failed.
“There is one guy who took all the documents with the hope that he will help her. He is closer to politicians. What did he do? Nothing. Instead he cannot come and account. The councillor knows about this but what is he doing, nothing. I blame them and they should take the blame,” she said.
Ward 18 councillor Ntomboxolo Kopman said she was aware of the family’s struggle for proper housing but did not say what she was doing about it.
Asked about the occupation of the senior’s site by a young lady, she said she was not aware of this and was going to investigate the matter. “She was one of the people that were to benefit in the Mandela Park but houses were kicked there. Then they were promised to have houses here. But the committees are aware of her. They never said anything about her site being occupied. I will visit her and investigate. I will then get back to you,” she said.
The Department of Human Settlements confirmed Ms Sithela’s house was not built.
Spokesperson Muneera Allie said officials confirmed that there is still enough space for the house to be built.
“The department also confirms that there is a structure built next to Ms Sithela’s site, and its fence is encroaching on her plot. The committee of the project will discuss the encroachment with the neighbour, in consultation with local authorities and with support provided from the department,” she said.
Ms Allie said the department relies on the project committees to submit the list of beneficiaries to be assisted as well.
“According to the Mandela 497 committee, they were facing several challenges with contractors abandoning the project due to disagreements between those contractors and the committee. Ms Sithela was approached by other PHP project committees to be part of other projects for example Senzeni PHP. Ms Sithela however rejected this offer at the time as she indicated that she would wait for the Mandela 497 committee to assist her,” she added.
She said the department is also in discussion with various PHP committees for an opportunity for Ms Sithela to be accommodated in another project which is currently active.