Over 50 families in Orange Farm south of Johannesburg are still waiting to move into their new RDP houses, five years after construction began.

Last year all 53 houses were demolished due to poor workmanship. A new contractor was appointed but has only erected 20 structures with no roofs, doors or windows. Gauteng’s Human Settlements Department has more than 1300 houses across the province that are incomplete, some were abandoned due to shoddy workmanship.

Stretford extension 4 in Orange Farm is where the 53 incomplete houses are located. Some of the houses were abandoned at the foundation phase while others have no roofs, doors or windows.

Ward councillor Makhosazana Ndlela, of ward 131 where these houses are located, says, “The contractor that was appointed in 2016, they did not finish the work to build the houses. The houses stood unoccupied from 2016 to 2020. So, when they inspected them, they found out that they developed cracks. They started to demolish them and start afresh. The contract was terminated because they did shoddy work. So, the Housing Department terminated the contract.”

Portia Thobokane and her family of nine were excited when contractors started building their grandmother a four-roomed RDP house with a toilet in 2016. They thought they will finally have a decent home and more space. But for four years they had to contend with an incomplete structure.

“We got corrugated iron sheets and place them at the top of the structure to make a roof and we stayed in here. Then they came and demolished the structure and told us there’s a new RDP house that is going to be built. This structure here is the second house that has been built. Children play on this structure, and they get injured.”

Mandla Yika is the Community Liaison Officer for the new construction company Buyanempumelelo Trading and Projects which took over from the initial contractor, Rebakgoni, last year. He says of the 53 houses that the Gauteng Human Settlements Department mandated them to build from scratch, they’ve so far managed to erect 20 structures in the last four months that have no roofs, doors or windows.

“Currently we have built 20 houses only with wall plate. And then 32 next week or this week they will be building slabs, the foundations. When they build these 20 houses, there were four houses that were demolished again based on the sub-contractors. When they built these houses, it was a mess. They were not going to pass for quality assurance. So every day these beneficiaries are being torn apart.”

The department says the contract with the first contractor Rebakgoni was not terminated, it expired and was never renewed. And that of the R5-million total cost of the project they were only paid R1.2 million despite the shoddy work done. Instead of being sanctioned, they were given warning letters to improve performance. Over R11-million  has now been budgeted for the new contractor to build all 53 houses from scratch. Thobokane feels government has failed her and her family.

“We thought our grandmother and sister-in-law would by now have their own bedrooms so we can stay freely in the other rooms but that has failed. How are we going to vote when these RDP houses are not complete?”

Last week the Human Settlements Portfolio Committee in the Gauteng Legislature summoned the department to account for the incomplete and abandoned houses. The Committee’s Kedibone Diale says the department told the committee that it does not have the resources to complete these legacy projects, some dating back to 2003. She says it is about time that contractors who do shoddy work are held to account.

“There’s a need to blacklist such contractors because we cannot continue with such people,  who benefit from the system when they do not do quality jobs. One of the members says some of these things, we take to court because there is a need to recoup the money. But there is a plan in place of ensuring that moving forward there is proper contract management,” says Diale.