Johannesburg Mayor Geoff Makhubo has conceded that it is unacceptable for qualifying beneficiaries to wait up to 24 years for houses. He has acknowledged that the government does not have the capacity to meet the housing demand.
Makhubo has been speaking in Fleurhof, south-west of Johannesburg, where he handed over 40 houses today. In total, 112 houses will be handed over to beneficiaries over the next few weeks. One of the beneficiaries is an 84-year-old pensioner who applied for a house in 1996.
There was a strong police presence at the handover ceremony following weeks of unrest in the area which saw law enforcement evicting people from houses they had illegally occupied.
A long wait
Gladys Magxotywa was 60 years-old when she applied for an RDP house in 1996. She has been living in a shack in Alexandra, north of the city, for the past 24 years.
After over two decades of waiting for a house, she finally has one. It was a bitter-sweet moment when Makhubo handed her the keys to her new two-bedroom home.
She was the eldest of this group of beneficiaries. She says she thought the government had forgotten about her and was preparing to paint her shack later this year ahead of her birthday.
“But I’m happy now. I thought the government had long forgotten about me … it’s over because I no longer attend meetings. I have a leg and a knee problem.”
She faces new challenges, settling into a new environment. The 84-year-old must find out where to buy bread and other daily essentials as well as a new pension grant pay-point.
Her daughter, Thandi Magxotwa will help her elderly mother to get used to her new home. The daughter is also a pensioner, aged 64, and has been waiting for her house since she applied in 2000.
Another pensioner, who also received a house after 23 years of waiting, is 77-year-old Alice Motha. She applied for a house in 1997 and has been staying at her late parents’ house in Orlando West in the meantime.
She recalls feeling desperate at times when she had a fight with her younger sibling, wondering if she will ever own a house. With each passing year, Motha’s hope of ever receiving a house was fading.
“Sometimes I’d say to myself, why I should lose hope. Let me just keep praying. I’m in a queue, (and) one day my turn will come. And truly it came. When I got a call last week that I’ll be allocated in this place, I got a shock. I said ‘aah, is that true?’”
Motha, explaining how she felt when she walked into her new house, says, “I felt like flying, but I didn’t fly. I couldn’t fly because I don’t have wings. I think if I did have wings I’d have flown. But I’m so happy because I’m not going to spend a lot of money, buying paint, buying burglar proofs, buying a burglar-proof for my door. Everything is there.”
She will be staying with her 50-year-old last born son and his child.
Makhubo says they are battling to keep up with the demand for housing.
“Yes, it cannot be acceptable that qualifying beneficiaries wait for a long time. However, the demand far outstrips the supply. We can only build about 3 000 houses a year. The waiting list is around a hundred thousand. So, you know, we’ll take time to complete and people are coming into the waiting list. That’s why the government as a whole has decided that they’ll move in the direction of releasing land so that people can build for themselves.”
The illegal occupants who were removed by the Red Ants recently after occupying the empty houses are threatening court action.
Makhubo says they are confident that they are allocating houses to rightful beneficiaries.
“They’ve threatened to go to court. We’ll meet them in court. We’ll meet them toe-to-toe. We can demonstrate who the beneficiaries are and from now until October, we’ll be allocating to the rightful beneficiaries, who can be found in the HSS, which is the housing beneficiary and software housing list in the province. Anything that’s got to do with invasions, we’re going to meet head-on. Any illegality we’re going to meet head-on. The days when the government looked away as people invaded land for patronage to stay in political power are gone. We’re going to meet anarchy head-on and we’re going to defeat it.”
A total of 21 000 beneficiaries are expected to receive houses when the entire housing project is complete in Fleurhof. The project is a partnership between the city and the Gauteng provincial government.