Pensioner living in a dilapidated structure receives keys to new home

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A pensioner from Eshowe in KwaZulu-Natal is grateful that she will have a warm Christmas, this year. The 85-year-old, Deli Mthembu has lived all her life in a dilapidated informal structure.

She received a new house from the Department of Human Settlements, after locals reached out to a SABC News team, who was covering a story in the area, earlier this year.

Mthembu spent her life in a structure, held up by an iron sheet roof. On rainy days, water would fill her house, where she lives with her 10-year-old grandson. Mthembu’s living conditions upset Sibongiseni Qwabe, a local resident, who searched for help.

Looking at Mthembu’s new home, Qwabe fights back tears expressing joy.

“Every time I returned home I would also visit gogo, the environment she was living in was not good. Even though I am also poor but I really wished gogo get a safe house. I took the initiative to reach out to many people and today I am over the moon seeing her getting a newly built house with furniture.  I am extremely happy.”

During the construction of the house, community members also came together to help. Traditional leader, Vusi Mhlongo says the locals assisted in the construction process by fetching the water from a nearby river.

“The community was united behind this project. So many women had to assist by fetching water from the river to ensure builders had water for construction. That showed that so many of us wished to help gogo but we did not have means.”

Vulnerable people and families are being prioritised for housing, says the Director of Emergency Housing at the National Department of Human Settlements, Edwin Limba.

“The department found this destitute queries through social media through one of the community member Mr. Qwabe and also the follow up was made by one of SABC employees. The department through our ministry found that we need to help the destitute family because within the emergency housing we normally respond when there are emergency housing needed. Whenever there is a destitute family we come on board to assist and when we came here we found it was indeed a destitute family, an elderly woman. And our Minister Kubayi she normally priorities the vulnerable groups which include elderly and child headed families.”

A Gauteng based contractor, Simphiwe Msibi of Sinopa Construction and Property, says there was no hesitation, when the request came in.

Deli Mthembu is all smiles in her new home, using song expressing happiness and gratitude to everyone.

“I am so happy, everything is beautiful inside my new house. At first when they told me within a month I’ll be sleeping in a new house I did not believe them. I thank God and everyone who contributed in ensuring I will for the first time have a beautiful Christmas.”

For the first time, the 85-year-old Mthembu will experience Christmas in a brick house, unconcerned about rain. The cherry on the top is having a fridge for the first time.