Free State residents have expressed their anger over the poor conditions they are living in after the provincial government spent R255 million on an asbestos roof audit project that did not benefit them.

Last week, seven people accused of fraud, corruption and money laundering appeared in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court after the Hawks arrested them in the Free State, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

They are facing charges relating to the multi-million rand asbestos housing project that dates back to 2014.

Residents of Dark City in Bloemfontein say they are relieved the wheels of justice are turning for those who involved in the scandal.

A mother of three from Dark City in Mangaung says her living conditions are unbearable. Kedibone Tinte says she’s been suffering from poor health with constant coughs for years.

She suspects that asbestos roofing could be the cause of her poor state of health.

Tinte says she’s now scared for her children’s wellbeing.

“I’m not feeling well about this situation of these location about these asbestos. I’m leaving with three children. We don’t leave well at home because this roof is getting worse when it rains. Then we are getting sick a lot. Then I thought our justice can take a hard stance on these guys.”

Another resident, Nozimanga Mzuzwana, says she shares her house with other four people.

Mzuzwana says all that she wants is to see justice.

She wishes that suspects in the asbestos scandal could receive a harsh sentence.

“We want justice here. This asbestos must be fixed here. There have been promises of houses. We want houses for our grandmothers. As you can see here, the asbestos is affecting people. People are getting sick, more especially the roofing here. Ever since we’ve been promised the asbestos would be fixed for many years ago, we’ve been waiting for them to fix. They must come to us and tell us why are they are not fixing this thing, because people are getting sick. People are getting tired,” says Mzuzwana.

The case has attracted the attention of both young and old. Lindokuhle Masangwana (26) has appealed to the country’s leaders to put people first.

“We just want the people that are in power … they must remove this asbestos. That’s all that we want. We have houses. We are grateful that we have a roof over our heads. And we are grateful that we have place we call home. So, please, we are pleading to the people who are in power – the ANC to be specific – they must remove this asbestos because it’s not good for us. We are people of South Africa. We are voting. So, surely, there’s something that we deserve as people.”

The Free State Human Settlements Department paid millions of rand to audit asbestos houses in the province in 2014. But to date residents are still living in houses with asbestos roofs.

The impact of the asbestos project on Free State residents under spotlight:

– by Ishmael Modiba