Residents dismayed by poor workmanship at Pelican Park

Rahat* and his family recently moved into their new state-subsidised house in Pelican Park, on the edge of Grassy Park in Cape Town, from an informal settlement in Ottery. He has three children but only his youngest lives with him. The bedroom designated for the children stands empty.

The entire house, in fact, is still nothing more than a dusty brick shell that is yet to become a home. This is because, despite having received a letter calling his family to move in, the house was left to them unfinished. Not only are the weather-side walls unplastered on the inside, but some windows are also missing latches and one door has no handle.

Rahat, a builder himself, is appalled at the poor quality of workmanship used to construct the house. Like many of Pelican Park’s new residents, it is now up to him to complete the job.

As I enter the house, his wife greets me with tired eyes and a warm smile. The open-plan front room and kitchenette is small and dimly lit by a single yellow light. Two packets of groceries stand in one corner under the sink. There doesn’t seem to be alternative cupboard space or a shelf on which to put them. On the counter stands a gas stove, a loaf of white bread and a red packet of tea.

Pelican Park is one of the City of Cape Town’s biggest low-income housing projects. Situated on the edge of Grassy Park suburb, in Cape Town, between Zeekoevlei and Strandfontein Road, the site is prospected to hold 2,100 state-subsidised houses, as well as two schools, a clinic and shops for low-income families.

As yet, none of these facilities are available. In fact, Pelican Park has proven for many residents to be further away from work, schools, employment opportunities and shops than in their previous living situations. A one-way taxi fare to the nearby facilities of “Busy Corner” in Grassy Park, or to the suburb of Wynberg, both central transport and market hubs, is the equivalent of one loaf of bread.

Many of Cape Town’s poorer families have lived for years in uncertain circumstances, often facing threats of eviction in informal living spaces. Yet, as they move in to a subsidised house that, in many cases, they have fought for years to acquire, these same families, like Rahat’s, say they are finding their circumstances worse-off than the conditions from where they came. With homes made from inferior materials the promises of decent housing have not been met.

In Rahat’s front room, the unplastered walls reveal cracks up every corner of the room, and the splatters of dried cement around a skew bathroom door frame confirm the slapstick nature with which the task of building was undertaken.

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A corner with metal sticking out and cracks in the cement work. Christy Zinn.

I could clearly see a group of high school boys playing soccer outside in the street through the window above the toilet. It was easy to notice how the ground-level bathroom offers no privacy for anyone making use of it.

“I have three daughters. How can I expect them to use the bathroom?” Rahat asked.

The bath has a hot and cold tap, but there is no hot water. Residents say they were promised solar water heaters, which have not been provided. Authorities have reportedly told complaining residents that acquiring hot water in their homes is a task they themselves must undertake.

As the city approaches midwinter, Rahat is not the only resident concerned about how his children will cope. Financial resources to undertake any renovations are severely scarce.

He went upstairs to show me one of the two modest bedrooms. It was evening, and the steps were not only difficult to see, but some even sloped along their edges making it easy to slip. I excused my slow navigation upward. Rahat mentioned that both he and his youngest daughter have already fallen down the stairs on separate occasions.

In the bedroom, the first thing I noticed was the grey dust blanketing the plastic thrown over a single mattress turned on its side. I was not upstairs for ten minutes, when I started to feel a sense of uncomfortable dryness in my throat.

Rahat’s wife is asthmatic. Before completing their first month in the new house, she was admitted to hospital on account of struggling to breathe. It was discovered that she had cement in her lungs. After four days of hospitalisation, she was sent back to the very residence that made her sick. She had lived in informal living conditions for most of her life, and had been waiting for that very house for 25 years.

The difficulties Rahat and his family are experiencing are not uncommon. Many of the Pelican Park residents I spoke to claimed to never have suffered as many health problems as they have had in the short space of time since moving to their new, subsidised houses. The majority of these residents come from informal living conditions.

Besides posing a health hazard, the homes also pose a safety hazard and have failed to uphold the promise of decent living that was made to prospective residents. Despite this, residents are quiet, and do not know the channels accessible to them through which they can complain.

Power Construction built the homes, and when approached for comment by a reporter , spokesman Bongani Mgayi said they were aware of some of the complaints, reports news site iol.co.za.

How is it considered justifiable to move hundreds of low-income families into unfinished homes in a neighborhood that offers little opportunity for prosperity? In what context is it fair to subject citizens of the city to live in poor health and safety conditions? As awareness of this case grows, these are some of the questions the municipality will be expected to answer.

*Not his real name.

Based in Cape Town, South Africa, Christy Zinn is a postgraduate researcher and urban thinker striving to interrogate the social and spatial dynamics of cities. Believing that people make a city tick, she focuses on invoking a culture of active citizenship within urban communities​.

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24 Responses to “Residents dismayed by poor workmanship at Pelican Park”

  1. Lynda Jones

    I just paid R700 on transfer fees on one of these Pelican Park RDP houses for a woman with a baby who desperately needs a home. I am appalled to realise that my money has paid for something I wouldn’t put my dog in. Good God, is there no end to the abuse of public money by the companies building RDP houses? Who checks their work? Who examines what they paid, for what, when? The state has paid contractors in good faith. The contractors must be made to account for every sent, or face criminal prosecution!!!!

    Reply
  2. BrendonB

    Hi Lynda,
    You might be interested to read this article over at Africa is a Country: http://africasacountry.com/the-politics-of-postapartheid-housing/

    Reply
  3. Rashieda

    Good day I am Rashieda, I am on the waiting list almost 12 years, i have a child of 17years old and my sick dad that is over 60 is also moving around with me, almost after every 4months we move from this place to the next, sometimes even sleep outside like the rest of my family members. The stuff I red on this website is hard sore but at least this people isn’t being abused by landlords. Please if u have a heart, reach out and help me and my family with a house we can call home ? Please?

    Reply
  4. Andiswa

    hi im a mother of 3 childlen , waiting for a house , can i be part of pelican house as im inkhayelitsha

    Reply
  5. Donna

    Heck I wouldnt care if the place isnt finished me and my daughter dream of having a place to call our home! landlords can be heartless bullies and not having any family members with homes makes it even worse. please help us our eyes are tired of the burden.

    Reply
  6. Chantle

    The poor building / construction, does this / has this only occurred with the houses given to people who have been on the waiting list or is this occurring in all houses built in the whole of Pelican Park? I wish to buy the GAP home which is R320 000.00 and need clarity on this query. Your assistance in this regard will be highly appreciated.

    Reply
    • Labeeqa

      See my comment below . . . The GAP houses for sale are sold as what they would call ‘finished’ but cracks everywhere along the walls, are built skew and out of square and become mouldy all over, even up to the middle joining wall which takes over all your clothing, shoes and belongings with mould. You’ll find cheaper materials being used everywhere from the piping, taps, doors, cupboards and windows. Everyone that is supposed to be checking the workmanship of these houses from the council to the NHBRC is all covering up the bad workmanship of Power Construction by giving the same excuses to complaints of residents. Myself along with many residents have tried continuously, council along with all other entities just give an excuse or ignore you. We are told to clean the houses of mould ourselves with bleach and when we do, the paint washes off the walls instead. They advise constant cleaning of mould but refuse to see to the problem causing the mould. Just be very aware of the actual condition of the GAP houses that they are selling, don’t be fooled by the nice appearance you see at first or the excuses and lies they sell and tell you.

      Reply
  7. Labeeqa

    The GAP houses for sale are sold as what they would call ‘finished’ but cracks everywhere along the walls, are built skew and out of square and become mouldy all over, even up to the middle joining wall which takes over all your clothing, shoes and belongings with mould. You’ll find cheaper materials being used everywhere from the piping, taps, doors, cupboards and windows. Everyone that is supposed to be checking the workmanship of these houses from the council to the NHBRC is all covering up the bad workmanship of Power Construction by giving the same excuses to complaints of residents. Myself along with many residents have tried continuously, council along with all other entities just give an excuse or ignore you. We are told to clean the houses of mould ourselves with bleach and when we do, the paint washes off the walls instead. They advise constant cleaning of mould but refuse to see to the problem causing the mould. Just be very aware of the actual condition of the GAP houses that they are selling, don’t be fooled by the nice appearance you see at first or the excuses and lies they sell and tell you.

    Reply
  8. faiza

    Hi ..I’m sooo in need of a home i can call my own..im renting a room at my in laws and don’t have any privacy ..I’m forever in my room ..accept for when i need to use kitchen or bathroom..its really not nice staying this way..i applied for housing only in last year.. as i was married before to a man who has his own home..didn’t know this will happen to me..but it did ..and i have read here that someone paid transfer fees to give someone a home…please if there’s anyone who can do that for us i will be forever grateful to you..I’m prepared to pay myself for the transfer costs ..even if it means that i should go and lend that money…but desperate am i really….we Muslim .my hubby embraced Islam ..BT my father and brother inlaw s are drinking alcohol… and especially in this holy month of Ramadaan I’m feeling so uncomfortable here ..but where are we going? people asking lots of money just to rent a room…I’m asking you to please find it in your heart to help us…contact me on 073 5944 576.. Shukran/ Thanks

    Reply
  9. dija

    Hi good I’m on the waiting list for a house but I would like to put my name on by Pelican Park RDP houses I need one I can’t move up and down I have 3 kidz my one child had a heart operation in this year can any one let me please let me know how I can make cause I attended meeting paid money wen I was at Pelican office they said the list was full please need help asap contact me on 0768942026 whatsapp also if u can help me with any way u know of

    Reply
  10. Rabia davids

    Hi I’m Rabia davids we on the data base sins 1999.we lost our house 10 years ago. desprite in need for ur help. Me and my husband and our six kids we live with my brother and his family of four in a one bedroom flat in kewtown athlone. And its my brother,s house. My five year old daughter got ashma. My brother we live with is christian and he is an alcoholic and he smoke. I got married into Islam. Me and my husband is Moslem we don’t drink and we don’t smoke. I can’t take it anymore I must be out here also because my brother don’t wash himself for months and he stinks my kids are complaining they can’t take the smell and he is coughing now for 3weeks he don’t care bout himself he could have TB and me my husband and 6kids could be in danger and its to crowded here. is der any posible way that I can put my family in a stable home or a small piece of ground that I can put a wendy house on. I don’t ask for much. My 2nd elders daughter is in GR11 n two on primary school. If u can help us please pretty please. We would be happy with any home. Thank u yourstruely Rabia davids.contact number 0845797896 or 0 84 845 8439

    Reply
  11. Rabia davids

    There are people that own 3 houses and they got a house in pelican park. There are people that was,nt even on the waiting list for a house they got a house.But we are struggling to get a house we are on the waiting list since 1999 do u think is fare. Me and my husband we have 6kids my daughter of 5years old is ashmetic I got a letter of her health condition we live with my brother and its my brother,s house.We live in a one bedroom flat downstairs they call it the blokke in kewtown athlone.my brother is an alcoholic and smoke a lot he is christian. I was christian but got married into Islam. My brother don’t care bout himself he don’t wash for months and he smell bad my kids are complaning of the smell they can’t take it anymore is there any posible way that I can get help for a house or a piece of ground to put a wendy house on. Please help us we reali need a stable home we don’t have any privacy. Me nd my husband sleep with 4kids on A bed and the other two on the floor.can u please help us.contact number 084 845 8439 or whatsapp 0845797896

    Reply
  12. portia johnson

    Hi I’ve been on the waiting list since 1997 but has been moved to 2000 because for some reason the files got lost at Ottery housing department.Ive been to 50 Wale street in Cape Town numerous times,and were just conveniently told that they’re busy with 1997 but Im on for 2000 and it wont be long before I get a house.Im still waiting. !!!A lot of people I know got houses that’s not even on the list for the amount of years that Im on.Some were on the list for 12 years,others 14 years(and here Im stuck in a shack.Im divorced with 3 kids.My son (2years old at the time I applied,will be 21 in March next year)Im fed up with this system.To top it all,I dont qualify for a bond because I don’t earn enough.How’s that for being treated fairly?

    Reply
  13. Annonamous

    I”m on the waiting list since 1995 and i’m still waiting, i would like to get a house in Pelican Park if possible i am staying in Parkwood if it’s not a problem

    Reply
  14. Frank

    Its hardsore to hear how our people is stuggling. If only we could stand togther to fight this becouse this goverment is totaly wrong.. How wil our country go forward if we as the people are treated like k*k. The white goverment that use to rule this land even gave us better homes then the goverment that’s incharge now. The city of cape town have no heart for our people.

    Reply
  15. Amina

    My name is Amina i was retrenched in 2013 since then i lost everything but algamdulilaah the Almighty has stored sabr in my heart me husband and son is staying with my parents in hanoverpark as we cannot afford to pay big rentals anymore its very crowded and i am so much use to my own space but insha alah the Almighty know your needs for now i am the only one working and only contracting and the money i earn only last a week but if thr is anyone out thr that have a decent house to rent i for now can only pay 3000pm pls contact 0787298769

    Reply
  16. Miss L S

    Hi I honestly am clueless on how this housing biz works. I am single mom abandoned by a husband so leaves me and my kids homeless too.. Any advice because places are so expensive and yes I am working but soley maintain everything… Could anyone assist please and advisably tell me which route to take because I don’t want to move just anywhere and places I have no idea how to go about when it comes to traveling and driving so preferably I am asking for assistance either Steenberg up To Pelican Park… Its all areas I am familiar with. You Know the toughest challenge is raising kids on ur own so we as parents need to do what is necessary as we take the responsibility alone. (S>O>S) 0630786260/0610071911 After Hours preferably Or Leave detailed message. Thanx and Kind regards L

    Reply
  17. Carwell

    Yet another issue looming over Pelican Park is the fact that many of the people living there are from the deepest,darkest crime ridden areas on the Cape Flats.Now all concentrated on 1 big scrapyard.Now ,as much as I appreciate the ‘bricks and cement’,its not hard to see that the place is so much similar to what the apartheid government had done to our people.Meaning that this is another township created.The end result ,I think all of us are already familiar with.My question is:’What measures do we take to protect ourselves?’Our vehicle as well as all our neighbour’s cars have already been broken into.Yet that excuse for an ‘office’ in the container offers no answers as far as title deeds which allows us to build walls or extend so that our car can park in.Ask respectfully and you get sent all the way to the City of Cape Town,who inturn sends you right back to ask for the developers,which ‘nobody’ can seem to find.So what do we have to do?What are our options in this township?Shall we create our own because we seem to be met with constant resistance when it comes to dignity and preservation of life.Another thing is that there is no police presence whatsoever.Many people have taken the onus upon themselves to ‘close up’ their properties fearing the same conditions.2 girls 10 and 15 in my road already raped,dead baby found behind a primary school and blatant drug usage.Its only a matter of time before it gets worse.Do we now only face taking the law into our own hands?

    Reply
  18. anthea davids

    hi goodday
    i like to no my mother is on a waiting list for 20 years she walk up down to no why she never got a house everyone giveing her a story

    Reply
  19. Mary

    I have no where to go, i would take a house like that, and be very grateful for it.

    Reply
  20. Ivan

    hi my name is Ivan ,me and my wife are 22 years on the waiting list we will be glad if we could apply for a house at pelican park

    Reply
  21. RLN

    Good afternoon All, My husband and i bought a 2 bedroom freestanding house in Pelican Park and they have recently started building our property, the walls are half way up and we are supposed to move in mid October. Ive been hearing sooo many negative comments from existing home owners but ive also heard some good comments. The reason we went into this developement was because we cannot afford a deposit or transfer fees on a normal house so this developement seems perfect for us. As the time draws closer i actually feel scared as i do not know what to exepct due to all the negative feedback. Is there anyone who has lived in the developement in afree standing house for atleast a year who can give me some feedback as to what they are experiencing? I would really appreciate it.

    Reply
  22. jennifer

    hi im a single mom 2 daughters one son we are homeless we sleep here and there and i urgently looking for a place can u please assis us

    Reply

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