Gugulethu community worker Lulama Maqalekana is worried about fraud in housing projects and at government level, which, she says, is leading to the mushrooming of shacks across the area.
Ms Maqalekana claims there are people who, according to government records, received houses, yet they still stay in shacks.
One such case, she said, was that of Sheilla Mntomnintshi who apparently stays in a shack although government records showed she had been approved for a house.
Ms Mntomnintshi, who is partially blind, said she was shocked to learn that her subsidy had been approved.
“I should have had a house long ago when I was still working. The news came as a shock to me when Ms Maqalekana told me. I have spent my years renting from place to place. Look at my shack now: it is dilapidated. This is unfair to me because I must now apply for a house again, starting from scratch,” she said.
Furthermore, Ms Maqalekana has accused the Department of Human Settlements and its officials of neglecting elderly people and the disabled, instead focusing on young people.
Through her organisation, Ncedo Human Rights Project, Ms Maqalekana is representing the interests of the homeless and elderly people.
She said the high level of corruption meant the elderly and the disabled were left without houses and that her investigations had revealed that many people stayed in shacks while their homes were being occupied by others. Many of them, she said, were unaware that their subsidies had been approved, and that their houses were being occupied by other people.
Ms Maqalekana claimed people’s names were removed from the approved lists to accommodate friends and family of officials. She said Ms Mntomnintshi’s house was approved 15 years ago, and that she she was not the only one affected.
Provincial department of Human Settlements spokesman Bruce Oom confirmed that Ms Mntomnintshi had been approved for a subsidy in 1997, but he denied that a house had been built for her and subsequently occupied by another person. He said funds for her house had been returned to the department in 1999.
Mr Oom said the funds still reflected against Ms Mntomnintshi’s name.
“She should contact the human settlement project administration directorate of the department regarding a ‘withdrawal’ from the individual housing subsidy. This will enable her to be eligible again for a housing subsidy for upcoming housing projects, as an individual may only receive one housing subsidy in their lifetime. She can contact the deputy director for subsidy administration for assistance on this regard,” he said.
Mr Oom added that for one to qualify for an individual subsidy, the applicant needed to have been on the municipal housing list for more than 10 years. He said from the information provided, it appeared that Ms Mntomnintshi would meet those criteria.
Regarding the allegation that seniors were not being prioritised, Mr Oom said that was not the case and that the department had a strategic goal to prioritise the elderly and most vulnerable, especially those older than 40. On allegations of people occupying houses that did not belong to them, he said his department would require details on specific cases.
He further explained that individual housing subsidies were available to qualifying individuals of low-income households, where an applicant wished to buy a residential property for the first time. He said the subsidy could be used to buy an existing house, buy a house on a plot-and-plan basis, or finish an incomplete house.