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Durban: Before the advent of democracy, Naseema Latiff and her family lived in a wood and iron home.
Twenty years later, they continue to share the same informal dwelling in Pond Street in Welbedacht East, Chatsworth.
“It is about time the government builds us dignified homes,” said Latiff, 54.
The mother of seven said she applied for an RDP house with the KZN Department of Human Settlements in 1999.
“My husband and I initially lived with his family but due to the lack of space, we had to move out. We heard about Welbedacht East and we decided to move to the area. We thereafter applied for a home with the department and they gave us a green card with an application number. But since then nothing has manifested,” said Latiff, who lives with her husband and three children.
She has since suffered two strokes.
“When the first housing development was built a road away from where we live, we were told we would be next in line. Then when a housing project started on Road 751 in the early 2000s, we were again told that we would get a place. But still nothing. More homes were subsequently built. When we enquired with officials, we were told it was reserved for people that lived in uMlazi.”
She said she uses a wheelchair and was dependent on her unemployed daughter, Mariam, 32, and neighbours to get around.
“We see new people coming into the settlement and after a few months, some of them are moved into RDP homes but we are sitting around and waiting for our home.”
Manomoney Naidoo and her daughter Keshnie live further down the road, also in a wood and iron home. Naidoo, 64, depends on her pension to take care of the household and her 20-year-old daughter.
“My husband and I moved here in 1999 and we also applied for an RDP home. We dreamt of having our own place and setting up a small vegetable garden, as we had behind our informal home,” said Naidoo.
She said when her husband died, other informal residents flattened the garden to build structures. Naidoo said she and the others in the area lived a tough life.
“There was no water or electricity until about five years ago. I remember my son used to walk to the river to collect water in buckets and we had to boil water to bath and cook our food on an outside fire. I don't want to be bothered with finding containers to place under a leaking roof anymore. At this age, I want something that I can call my own so I can live with dignity.
“Ten years ago, I was told I would get a home and when I was not selected, I went to the department to check if my application number was the same. It's disappointing. It's as though we are forgotten.”
Anoop Rampersad, the councillor of the area (ward 77), said: “Many Indian informal residents from the area have come to me for help. They have been on the list for housing for years but for some reason, some of them are unable to get homes.
“In 1999, the government said it would make 5 200 RDP homes available for people in Welbedacht. Since then, 4 600 homes were built. Where the remainder of homes should have been built, are only concrete slabs. When I became the councillor in 2016, I asked the department to complete the project but I was told there was no budget.
“These informal residents have been struggling financially for years because they cannot find jobs. This is what led them to Welbedacht East. They live in poverty because they have other options.”
The Department of Human Settlements in KZN did not respond at the time of publication.