Project to convert hostels to family units a waste of money: Gauteng government

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The Gauteng provincial government has described a multi-million rand project intended to convert hostels into family units as a monumental failure and waste of money. In 2014, the provincial government embarked on a programme to refurbish hostels and convert them into family units. During his tenure, former Gauteng Human Settlements MEC Paul Mashatile announced that R165 million would be spent to convert the hostels. However, the project was marred by controversy when it was about to be completed.

The project was hailed as a ground-breaking step to change the apartheid landscape and replace the old hostels with new habitable spaces. In Soweto, the Dube, Jabulani and Meadowlands hostels were identified for development, but the project was later abandoned. In Meadowlands, R13.7 million was earmarked to be spent developing over 3 444 units. This was in addition to R31.8 million that had already been spent on improving the hostel. In Diepsloot, R22 million was allocated.

Gauteng Human Settlement MEC Dikgang Moiloa says lack of proper management caused the project to be abandoned.

“In Dube hostel, for instance, almost half of the hostel was reconstructed, beautiful family units down there. But the manner in which it was planned was such that the hostel residents or the new beneficiaries of that development which was called community residential units will pay a particular amount for rental. Now the hostel residents could not afford that.”

Meanwhile, in Mamelodi a battle for the occupation of family units turned violent when the community accused occupants of being there illegally.

Police spokesperson Mahlahlani Maheso says, following the violence, a case of murder is being investigated.

“I can confirm that there is a murder and attempted murder case which we are investigating whereby a young boy of 20 years-old was shot and died later at the hospital and then his friend was shot on the leg which then becomes attempted murder.”

Meanwhile, Moiloa says in Mamelodi the failure to properly execute the project led to the current situation.

“Some things went wrong in the process of project management. The project was stopped. Houses were not allocated. The contractor moved out of site and lawlessness crept in.”

Moiloa says many projects to refurbish and develop hostels were abandoned because of poor management. He, however, says the provincial government has a new programme to deal with hostels.

“We are now at the point where we are establishing hostel redevelopment steering committees. We are reconstituting the structures at provincial level and in communities where these hostels are. We are at the point at which we are now getting into the design stage of the redevelopment of these hostels and 19\20 we’re going to be issuing the reconstruction of some of the hostels that are within budget. We hope that everybody who lives in the hostels and the surrounding communities are going to be benefiting out of these developments.”

According to Moiloa, this new venture to refurbish and develop hostels will begin in the new financial year.