The Department of Human Settlements in Gauteng says it is aware of the poor condition of some RDP flats in Sitsela township in Midwaal and is taking care of them.

Residents of the three-storey building have condemned the appalling condition of the building, which they say is threatening their lives.

The walls inside the units are covered in dark mold, the pipes are leaking, there is no water in the fire hydrants, and cracks have appeared in some rooms.

Midwaal Local Municipality claims it has not even given the department a certificate of occupancy as they believe the blocks should not have been occupied in the first place.

Midvaal Local Council claims it warned the department before the flats were moved into in 2020 that the property was structurally unsound as it had some defects due to poor workmanship, but it went unheeded.

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

Francine Nkabola, 74, was delighted when she was allocated a two-bedroom flat in Sitsel’s flat after living in a shack on the plot for many years.

But within weeks of taking possession of her dream home, her excitement turned to despair. “When it rains, we put towels on the floor because the water from outside gets into the house. We are afraid that this apartment might fall on us and injure us. Unit 1 had the entire roof blown off by the wind after we got here. If children were playing there, they could be hurt or killed. In our bedrooms there is a pitch darkness from the mold on the walls – we try to wash it off. Even up there, the wall is cracking.”

The apartments were built using Alternative Building Technology (ABT), which includes fiberboard and cement.

Some of the balconies are unstable and do not have safety bars to prevent especially small children from falling. Another resident of Kamagelo Mobile says there was a fire recently and when they tried to put it out, they realized there was no water in the fire hydrants.

“On the same block we are in, there was a fire in one of the houses – we couldn’t stop the fire, and then we found out that there was no water in the hydrant. People had to make some plans to stop the fire. Imagine if that fire had spread to other units, what would have happened? Imagine if the family from this house were at home, what could happen.’

She says the dark mold on the walls in their bedrooms forces people to sit outside during the day or sleep in masks because of the unbearable smell, which they believe is putting their health at risk.

“People who have sinuses like me will live in masks when I sleep because of the smell in the house. You wake up at night and can’t breathe well. So I wear a mask for my own safety.”

Department spokesman Tahir Seema says they are aware of the issues and are addressing them.

“Regarding fire hydrants without water, this has not been reported to the department, however we will be investigating the matter. As for the solar geysers blasting, that was handled by the contractor. The Department will carry out its own assessment and confirm this. All units were completed and tested before distribution. The municipality was also part of the distribution team. The department retains the contract with the contractor until all deficiencies are corrected and inspected by the department.”

But that’s cold comfort to residents, many of whom live in constant fear for their safety.

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