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Colville family ’forgotten’

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Two years after President Cyril Ramaphosa sat in the living room of the Seekoei, Kok and Jacobs family to lament over their cramped living conditions, the family are still without the houses that they were promised.

The site in Herlear where six foundations have been laid for the construction of houses for the Colville family appears to have been abandoned. Picture: Soraya Crowie

TWO YEARS after President Cyril Ramaphosa sat in the living room of the Seekoei, Kok and Jacobs family to lament over their cramped living conditions – where over 40 family members shared a three-bedroom house in Colville – the family are still without the houses that they were promised.

The extended family, which has since grown to around 100 family members following the birth of more children, feel that their plight was used as a publicity stunt.

Following Ramaphosa’s visit to the family during the ANC’s 108th anniversary celebrations in Kimberley in 2020, the Collen Mashawana Foundation and AfriBiz Investments offered to alleviate the family’s overcrowded living conditions by promising to build them six houses.

AfriBiz Investments had indicated on January 27, 2020 that they were ready to begin construction so that the houses could be handed over to the family, which consisted of great-grandparents, grandparents, siblings, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, by Easter that year.

Representatives from the Collen Mashawana Foundation and AfriBiz Investments were last seen in Kimberley in March 2021 to reassure the family of their commitment.

At that stage, the contractor had abandoned the site after laying three slabs of foundation. He claimed that he had not received a cent of the payment that was due to him.

Currently, six small foundations have been completed in Herlear, behind the SAPS flats. The area has been cleaned and cleared of long grass, trees and foliage.

The foundation was also supposed to renovate the house in Colville but all work was halted after holes were drilled in the walls of one of the bedrooms and the paint was stripped.

Pedro Jacobs said that many family members were forced to rent rooms or shanties in their neighbours’ backyards while they were waiting for the house to be fixed.

“We have no idea how long we are supposed to wait. There are still about 20 family members who are sleeping in the kitchen and sitting room. We have received nothing but empty promises,” said Jacobs.

“They told us that we would be given a show house to demonstrate how capable the ANC was in providing for its people. The majority of us are not employed and we have to use our social grant money or pensions in order to pay for rent. Those of us who are employed do not have the means of paying the rent for everyone so we are struggling.”

He added that the elderly family members were becoming impatient.

“We have been waiting for a long time for these houses and were all excited about living in a high-end residential area. We have around 100 family members now and we want to live together.”

Jacobs stated that they were also ostracised by the community.

“We were accused of receiving special treatment and were told that we do not qualify for food parcels because we would be getting a house. It is a bitter pill to swallow because we were promised fully-furnished homes and that the children would be provided with transport to go to school. Ramaphosa told us that he would come to cut the ribbon when the houses were handed over. How do we know that the money was not stolen?”

He believed that it would have been better if no promises were made to the family.

“We feel used because we were given false hope. It is strange because it appears as if the Collen Mashawana Foundation recently handed houses over in Durban. They must have forgotten about us.”

Another family member, Elizabeth Miller, pointed out that the family has been “torn apart”.

“We are now all scattered and we haven’t heard a word from the donors, it’s as if they have disappeared into thin air. Family members can only take the clothes on their backs to where they are renting because their accommodation places are too small.”

Lydia Kok added that she had tried to arrange a meeting with Sol Plaatje executive mayor Kagisho Sonyoni.

“His office informed us that he still needed to familiarise himself with the matter and we are still waiting for a date to be set.”

She indicated that they were not politically connected.

“This is not a political fight – it is about decent living conditions. Now we have been left in the lurch.”

The Office of the President referred media enquiries to AfriBiz Investments and the Collen Mashawana Foundation.

Numerous attempts to contact AfriBiz Investments were unsuccessful as the phone numbers listed at the Sandton address in Johannesburg rang unanswered.

According to an internet search, the Collen Mashawana Foundation was listed as “unregistered due to annual return non-compliance”.

A representative on Thursday indicated that they would forward media enquiries to the managing director of AfriBiz Investments.

Sol Plaatje Municipality spokesperson Thoko Riet said that due to an interdict the project could not continue.

“However, the municipality will resuscitate the discussion with the donor to proceed with the project.”

The Northern Cape High Court in January 2021 ordered that the suffering of the family could not be prolonged and that construction should proceed, after the DA had applied for an interdict to halt construction in March 2020 after a plot was identified for the construction of six houses behind the SAPS flats in Herlear.

The DA maintained that the land had already been allocated to another private housing developer and added that residents in the area feared that their properties would be devalued.

The Seekoei, Jacobs and Kok family are still patiently waiting for the houses that were promised to them two years ago following a visit from President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Soraya Crowie
The only renovations done to the house in Colville are holes that were drilled into the wall and the paint that was stripped. Picture: Soraya Crowie
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