Gugs’ sinking house

A livid Mzwandile Mvumvu outside his cracking house.

Members of a Gugulethu family are worried that their house will one day fall on them, either in their sleep or during the day.

They are accusing the City of Cape Town of tampering with the foundation of their house while performing some underground work in the area, nearly two years ago. However, the City has distanced itself from the family’s crisis, saying the work was carried out by a private company, which won a tender and in terms of their agreement, the City was indemnified from any damages.

A visibly worried Mzwandile Mvumvu said cracks began to emerge in some sections of the house a few months after construction workers completed the work. They began to spread rapidly around the house, and the building began to sink in on the side where the underground work was conducted.

Mr Mvumvu said he wrote numerous letters to the City to seek help, but was sent from pillar to post.

He said the building was fine until 2014 when the City started to fix the old sewerage pipes in the area.

Speaking to Vukani, Mr Mvumvu recalled how he witnessed his wheelie bin moving into a mysterious hole in his yard. He said he was helped by the construction workers, who were on site at the time, to get it out. They then closed the hole

A few days later, he said, the house started to sink and developed cracks.

“I have been having sleepless night since these cracks started,” he said. “My house was fine. The building was approved by the City. It was when they replaced the old sewer pipes that the problems started. I have done all I can to report my house, but no one is prepared to take responsibility.”

The house is now on the verge of collapse and the cracks are clearly visible all over. The floor is sliding into one direction. At the main gate, the soil is sinking on the one side. Half of the floor in one of the main bedrooms has collapsed and the bed is kept up by planks and hard board. The front door can hardly open.

“I wake up with a sore body every day. I have to lean against my wife for balance,” said Mr Mvumvu. “You can hear the sound of bricks separating from each other when it is hot. This has been our situation for more than three years.”

Siyabulela Mamkeli, Mayco member for area: centra,* said the City was aware of Mr Mvumvu’s case.

However, he said, the terms of the tender agreement concluded between the City and the contractor indemnified the City against any claims, legal action or costs arising out of the performance of the construction works.

“As per standard procedure, the insurance department notified the contractor of the claim and similarly informed the claimant that the claim has been referred to the contractor,” he said.

Mr Mamkeli added that flooring of the claimant’s garage also showed cracks which had been attributed to inadequate selection and compaction backfill, resulting in the rotation of the floor slab.

“It should further be borne in mind that in terms of the law of civil procedure, the evidential burden of proof is vested with the claimant to show just cause as to why he believes that the City or its contractor was responsible for the damages to his property, which evidently the claimant in this case has not been able to do in this instance,” he concluded.

Through its lawyers, Amandla Construction, which carried out the work, also refused to take any responsibility.

The company said after completing the work, a certificate of completion was issued in May 2015.

The company said it appointed an independent engineer and found that Mr Mvumvu’s driveway consisted of thin cement over a sub-base of rubble which did not appear to be compacted adequately.

It said the diagonal cracking at the garage, side wall of the garage as well as within the wall could not be attributed to them but to poor workmanship.