Over 40 families in Lamontville, south of Durban, have been left with no homes after they were demolished by the eThekwini municipality as part of the R293 rectification programme. The programme aims to rebuild old dilapidated houses that are deemed unsafe for habitation.

The affected families say they were not provided with alternative shelter and the programme has taken longer than what they were initially told it would. Lamontville is one of the oldest townships in KwaZulu-Natal.

In February this year the Ethekwini municipality demolished 48 homes that were deemed unsafe to live in.

One of them was that of 85-year-old Thandeka Khumalo. She says the house was her childhood home, in which she continued to live in even after her parents passed away. Khumalo erected a one room temporary shelter for her and her five grandchildren when her family home was demolished. She says most of her furniture was destroyed by the rain because they could not fit it all inside the shack.

“My life is terrible; it’s miserable when I look at my place and look at my children – I think of my time behind when I was a woman of her own house. I had my own things, I wasn’t relying on anybody. God gave me strength to work and serve myself and my children. My wish is for the corporation to build my house and go back to my house before I die of this COVID-19 because I’m going to die sooner or later,” says Khumalo.

Another resident, Thulani Mkhwanazi, says he understands that things have not been normal due to lockdown restrictions. Mkhwanazi, however, blames the municipality for not communicating with them.

“With our understanding and what we were told we thought things will move fast because they said it’s a four-week project; we had to build temporary shacks as you can see now that it’s winter we’re feeling the cold and there are many of us with young children all in a small shack. Now we don’t know what is going on. We understand it was the lockdown, but right now no one is updating us on what’s happening,” says Mkhwanazi.

Meanwhile, Ethekwini Chairperson of the Human Settlements and Infrastructure Committee Thanduxolo Sabelo says because of budget constraints, they had an agreement with the beneficiaries of the project that they would organise their own accommodation.

“When we started the demolition around February, we then went into lockdown because of the coronavirus. Now it has taken quite some time, which is about three months because of the national lockdown. We understand that it has become a bit uncomfortable for our people whom we had agreed with that we will deliver these houses in a short space of time, but we are indeed going to continue with the programme and rebuild the houses,” explains Sabelo.

Sabelo says the project will continue now that the lockdown restrictions are starting to ease.