KNYSNA NEWS - Problems with the housing projects in Hornlee, Knysna, continue with the main site still without electricity after three months.
The four housing projects started with the traditional sod-turning ceremony on the main site, across from Hornlee Primary School, in October 2019.
The houses were due to be completed and handed over by March this year, but the Covid-19 lockdown put the project on hold until May. In August, 36 of the 39 houses were completed and handed over, albeit without electricity.
At the time, provincial Human Settlements Minister Tertuis Simmers explained why the decision was made to hand over houses without power. "There were two options: wait for electricity to be supplied and run the risk of the wrong people illegally occupying the houses, or allow residents to move in and the installation of electricity happens as soon as possible." It was further stated that work would begin on providing electricity within a week.
However, three months on, there is still no electricity, and for resident Francilien Jafta, life has been well nigh impossible. Her son Austin, disabled in an accident, requires care 24/7 as he often suffers slime build-up that needs treatment with a machine. Without this treatment, Austin could choke.
"We had to rush him to hospital last week because he started choking again, and I feared for his life," Jafta says. Even though she has a generator, she cannot always afford to keep it running.
"It costs me way too much money, and even though the community has helped collect money, we cannot sustain this," Jafta said.
Other residents have also encountered some tough challenges in the last few months. "I now have to rely on gas to cook my food because they haven't given us electricity," Johnny Lawrence said. "The little money I am getting is being used to maintain a lifestyle without electricity, which is very difficult.''
Another resident, Carol-Anne Barnardo, echoed these sentiments. "It's worse now than when we were living in people's backyards," she said. "We can't buy any perishable food because we have nowhere to store it, and if we want to use power we need to go to other people in the area and ask if we can pay to use some of theirs."
According to head of communications at the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements Nathan Adriaanse, they have been as much in the dark as the residents. "The department was not aware that the units in Hornlee had not yet been electrified," he said, adding that the onus to provide electricity falls on the municipality, which is better placed to comment on the matter.
According to Knysna Municipality spokesperson Christopher Bezuidenhoudt:
"The municipality is legally bound to follow all legislation with regards to procurement. The processes unfortunately take time and the Covid-19 pandemic also caused delays. We are in the process of implementing electrification of formalised RDP houses. The electrical design is complete, the municipality is engaging with external service providers for the implementation thereof."
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