Pietermaritzburg – Meet Andile*. He likes music and playing soccer with his friends, but most of the time he has to abandon this to take care of his grandfather’s needs.
Every morning, the 12-year-old from the rural Taylors Halt in Vulindlela, outside Pietermaritzburg, starts his day at 5am. He has to get himself ready for school and tend to his wheelchair confined 60-year-old grandfather, who lost both his legs in the 1990s when doctors amputated him for medical reasons.
Speaking to SAnews in isiZulu outside the dilapidated one-room mud house overlooking scenic hills, the Grade 7 learner says his day starts early because has to boil water to bath both him and his grandfather, cook soft porridge for breakfast and wash the dishes.
He says the routine is the same in the evenings, which sees him cooking dinner for his old man before going to bed.
“I help him cook. I clean, push him around in his wheelchair and then we sit and chat about the nice things in life,” said Andile with a broad smile.
And today he had good reason to smile, despite his daily struggles. His grandfather is one of the recipients of the Vulindlela Rural Enhanced People’s Housing Process (EPHP), which is one of the biggest housing schemes in the country.
President Jacob Zuma and Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu were in the area to hand over houses as part of government’s celebration of the 4.3 million houses and subsidies delivered since 1994 countrywide.
KwaZulu-Natal has contributed about 725 078 of the 4.3 million houses.
The EPHP project, primarily funded through housing subsidies and establishment and facilitation grants, has a unique structure that enables the expertise and profits of housebuilding to remain in the community. This is different to traditional low-cost housing projects, where typically a construction company builds the houses and leaves with the profit.
The community actively contributes and participates in the housing development process so that they take ownership of the process as the construction activities are undertaken by community based co-ops.
This is achieved by partnering with non-governmental organisations and community groups as well as amakhosi (chiefs).
This results not only in the delivery of houses but job creation, skills transfer, promotion of local entrepreneurial and community empowerment while ensuring that people have access to adequate housing and quality living conditions.
The Vulindlela EPHP was approved in the 2011/12 financial year. The Department of Human Settlements says the project covers nine wards spread over 24 455ha of land and 136 615 residents.
It is meant to deliver 25 000 homes at approximately R2.1 billion. The project was meant to be closed in 2015 but due to financial constraints, it has been extended to 2018. To date, 12 300 units have been delivered in the rural area where the vast majority of residents reside in dwellings ranging from wattle and daub, tin shacks and formal block homes.
Through this project, about 13 community based co-ops have been created with 106 members in total. They include nine co-ops (one per ward) that are involved in the construction of slabs, wall plates and roofing; two transport co-ops to transport concrete material to construction sites and two co-ops that manufacture blocks.
Together, they have created 1 832 full-time employment opportunities for the people of the community, especially youth, while benefiting about 10 local SMMEs.
Building decent homes
The homes built in Vulindlela are changing lives. Andile said he was pleased that he and his grandfather will be living in a new home.
“I am happy that he has a house. It’s bigger, it has furniture and it is safe,” said Andile, who detailed the living conditions in the old house.
“During winter we had to light a fire in the house, which was dangerous because the house could have burnt down. The rainy season was worse because we would get rained on while inside,” said Andile.
His grandfather could not contain his excitement about the new home.
“You know that feeling when you have waited and prayed for something for too long to a point that when it happens, you don’t believe it its real? That is how I feel,” he said.
The new house consists of two bedrooms, a sitting room, kitchen as well as a toilet.
Government helped to fully furnish the house with couches, a double bed, stove, kitchen cupboards, fridge and curtains.
“Never in a million years did I think I would have a house like this, which is fully furnished and has an in-house bathroom and toilet. Even if I wanted to save for it, I couldn’t because the R1 500 social grant is the only income we have,” he said.
Government has also given Andile’s grandfather a new wheelchair, as his old one needed a special kick and push to make move around the gravel road.
“Now when they talk about government, I will assert that there is a government in South Africa… a government that takes care of its poor people. I am proof. My life has changed for ever,” he said, wiping away tears of joy.
Andile’s family was not the only one who received a new place to call home. Gogo Sizakele Florence Madlala (87) was also excited about her house.
Madlala used to live in a mud house with her two daughters, a mentally disabled son as well as five grandchildren.
Another lady who benefited from the introduction of the Vulindlela Rural EPHP is Nelisiwe Norah Ngcobo (44).
The single mother of three was living in a two-roomed mud house with three daughters aged between 12 and 17, as well as one grandchild.
The family used to depend only on the childcare grant received by the grandchild.
“I was very happy when I finally had a house of my own that is this big. It’s a dream come true for me,” Ngcobo said, showing off her new kitchen to SAnews while her neighbours congregated to sing songs of thanks to government.
Ngcobo said the project did not only give her a new home but an onsite skill, which brings extra income that helps her to feed her family.
She works in one of the co-ops where they manufacture window frames.