Residents of Sicelo RDP flats in Midvaal decry substandard construction

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The Gauteng Human Settlements Department says it is aware of the poor state of some of the RDP flats at Sicelo township in Midvaal and is attending to them.

Residents of the three-storey block of flats have decried the terrible state of the structure which they say is putting their lives at risk.

The walls inside the units are covered in dark mould, there are leaking pipes, fire hydrants have no water, and some rooms have developed gaping cracks.

The Midvaal Local municipality says it has not even given the department the occupancy certificate as they believe the units should not have been occupied in the first place.

The Midvaal local municipality says it warned the department prior to the flats being occupied around 2020 that the property was not structurally sound as it had some defects due to poor workmanship – but this fell onto deaf ears.

Midvaal Human Settlements MMC Mokete Motsamai says, “We have not as an institution even given the occupancy certificate which means even the units are not or should not even be occupied in the first place.”

74-year-old Francina Nkobolo was elated when she was allocated a two-roomed unit in the Sicelo flats after living in a shack on a plot for many years.

But a few weeks after occupying her dream home, her excitement turned to despair. “When it rains, we put towels on the floor because water from outside comes into the house. We are scared that this flat could come crashing down on us and injure us. In block 1 the entire roof was blown away by the wind after we had arrived here. If there were children playing around there, they could have been injured or killed. Our bedrooms are pitch black because of the mould on the walls – we try to wash them off. Even there on the top, the wall is cracking.”

The flats were built using Alternative Building Technology (ABT) which includes hardboard and cement.

Some of the balconies are unstable and there are no burglar bars to prevent especially small children from falling over. Another resident Kamogelo Mabilo says there was a fire recently and when they tried to extinguish it they realised that the fire hydrants did not have water.

“The very same block that we are in, there was a fire in one of the houses there – we couldn’t stop the fire and that is when we found out there is no water inside the water hydrant. People had to make some plans to stop the fire. Imagine if that fire had spread to other units what could have happened? Imagine if the family of that house was home what could have happened.”

She says the dark mould on the walls inside their bedrooms is forcing people to sit outside their homes during the day or sleep wearing masks because of the unbearable smell, which they believe is putting their health at risk.

“People who have sinuses like I will live wearing masks when I sleep because of the smell inside the house. You wake up during the night and you cannot breathe well. So, I end up putting mask for my safety.”

The Department’s Tahir Sema says they are aware of the challenges and are attending to them.

“Regarding fire hydrants with no water, this was not reported to the department however we will investigate this matter. Regarding Solar geysers that are burst, this has been addressed by the contractor. The department will conduct its own assessment and confirm this. All the units were completed and inspected before allocation. The municipality was also part of the allocation team. The department is holding the retention contract from the contractor until all the snag items are corrected and inspected by the department.”

But this is cold comfort for residents, many of whom are constantly living in fear of their safety.