49-year-old Ernest Mdunge and his 46-year-old sister Bongekile Hlengwa, live in a dilapidated hut built with bricks left over from a demolished house. The roof is made of grass, and rain and wind enter between the stacked bricks.
The family has no tap in the yard and Mdunge has to walk 3km to the “Jojo” water tank in the area.
“I use my feet to feel and guess if I’m still on the right path. Sometimes I hit myself on things and when that happens, I miss the path. I have to take steps back and try to find a spot that is familiar to my feet for me to find my way back.”
“Sometimes a neighbour helps me by giving me water from his house, but it doesn’t happen always,” Mdunge says.
Vegetables grown in yard
There is a pit toilet on the property.
Hlengwa’s condition is still being assessed at the local clinic to see if she qualifies for a grant.
The pair survive on Mdunge’s disability grant and on vegetables he grows with seeds donated by neighbours.
Speaking from their home in Khokhwane location, Mdunge says his worst fear is that the house could collapse at any time. The roof has holes and the floor is wet as water gets in during the rain.
There is one bed with blankets and a pile of clothes belonging to Hlengwa.
The house was built as part of a project by the Vulindlela Development Association (VDA). The VDA received government money to build houses for residents of Vulindlela, Pietermaritzburg. Many of the houses were demolished in 2014 because of their poor quality.
Fear of a falling roof
Like other families, the siblings fixed the demolished house themselves. They used the bricks to build their hut.
Mdunge says VDA is “nowhere to be seen”.
“They came once and they promised that they would come back, but they never did.”
“My worst fear is that the house could fall at any time. When it rains, the water and wind are uncontrollable. I’m scared for my sister.”
An Msunduzi municipality manager, Caleb Magubane, said he was aware of the family’s predicament, but could not help.
“As the municipality we cannot intervene. The VDA people have to intervene and help the family out. Our role as Msunduzi is to identify community problems and refer them to relevant people. This one it is out of our hands because it’s not our project,” said Magubane.
VDA’s Senzo Mfayela said his team would investigate and attend to the matter.