The Tsalanang flats located in eMbalenhle is a modern-day ghetto! Residents alerted the Bulletin to the state of the flats. The Bulletin visited Tsalanang Flats on Thursday 26 July.
The living conditions are appalling! The Department of Human Settlement made funds available to build new flats and to upgrade the old ones according to the residents.
The residents claim that the new building was built on non-compacted dolerite that was placed on top of the turf. No excavation was done and the foundations are very shallow. This could not yet be confirmed but the Bulletin hope to have confirmation of this in the near future.
Sewage was flowing openly between the flats when the Bulletin visited the site. Residents claim that the sewage pipes were damaged by the building contractors. They claim that this was deliberately done to force residents to move. The Bulletin found small children playing in the sewage water.
One resident, Sandra, invited the Bulletin into her house to see how wet it is. There is mould forming on her walls. “We have to put towels on the windowsill to try and stop the water,” said Sandra, “and when the geyser overflows it is an even bigger mess!”
The sewage from the adjacent building flows towards the building that she stays in. “We can’t even walk in our flat without getting wet,” said Sandra.
The flats also have no ventilation build in. Everything condensates on the inside. The neglect is so obvious. The Govan Mbeki Housing Company (GMHC) have neglected the flats to the state that it is unsafe to live in.
One flat lost part of the roof in a gust of wind and have not been repaired yet but the residents have to stay in the flats.
Residents were given choices, they could move to the new flats at far higher rental prices, they could apply for an RDP house and those that do not qualify for RDP houses can apply for a stand to build a shack on. This is a downgrading from the brick building they are living in now.
The rental costs are not fixed and determined by submitting your payslip.
While the Bulletin was walking around the area it became clear that the GMHC have decided not to service the area. The amount of rubble that is lying around is just staggering. The sewage flows everywhere.
Some of the flats are without water for over a year and yet they have to pay in order for them to have a roof over their heads.
The electrical work poses a danger to the residents. One distribution box has been covered in plastic bags to stop water entering the box and tripping the power. Buildings are connected with a surface cable, no cable trench is available.
When some of the residents were forcefully evicted from the flats, everything was damaged inside the building to stop residents from returning. Even the windows were smashed.
The Bulletin did, however, meet two residents that were happy with their new flats. The insides looked neat and without mould. The lounge is so small, however, that the lounge suite cannot really fit inside the room.
The residents have a warning system to protect themselves. They all have whistles and one blow on the whistle will move others to blow and within a few seconds, residents will start to emerge in support of each other.
As the Bulletin did his rounds the whistles started blowing. The residents laughed and said they think it’s because of the Bulletin’s visit. It was, however, the Department of Human Settlement that arrived to inspect two blocks of flats. As the Bulletin and the residents came within sight they climbed back into the two commuters and rushed off. The visit lasted 5 minutes or less. They did not stop to talk to us or any other resident but sped off.
The building project is shrouded in controversy as well as the Govan Mbeki Housing Company. The Sunday Independent reported on 31 January 2016 “Three officials have been suspended after R10m that had been earmarked for building houses for Mpumalanga’s poor disappeared. The three officials have been implicated in an illegal transfer of R18m to the GHMC. When the department became aware of the transaction R10m had already been withdrawn without a single house being built.”
Residents are clearly losing again in the battle for dignity.