Community members vented their “disgust” on social media, saying that the handover was “pathetic, embarrassing and a disgrace to humanity”.
THE GRANDEUR of the ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the handover of a shanty to the Serai family in Hartswater, has come under attack from the general public, who believe that it was done in bad taste.
The MEC for the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison, Lebogang Mothlaping, formally handed over the shanty to the bereaved family at the Nkandla informal settlement in Hartswater last week, following a bus accident that claimed the life of nine-year-old Refentse Darrin Serai.
The accident took place near ER Mocwaledi Primary School in Pampierstad, when the school bus collided with a truck last year.
The department visited the family shortly after the accident took place in February 2018 and made a commitment to the family to assist them.
During the handover last week, Mothlaping said that the three-bedroom shanty, which has a separate living area, would be an improvement on the dilapidated, one-room shanty shared by eight family members.
Community members meanwhile vented their “disgust” on social media, saying that the handover was “pathetic, embarrassing and a disgrace to humanity”.
“Government should be eradicating shacks, not building them … This is a PR exercise gone wrong,” one social media user posted.
“Honestly, this was an afterthought. Now that there’s a backlash from the masses, only now do they talk about ‘permanent structures’. Maybe they should’ve waited until they had built the permanent structure before inviting people and cutting ribbons.”
Another person pointed out that the event should not even have been publicised as they believe it was nothing more than an election ploy.
“I understand that immediate intervention was needed but to cut a ribbon and hand over the shack was really unnecessary.
“In my home – the ANC – we cut ribbons when we hand over dignified homes with proper sanitation, water and electricity and not when we hand over shacks.”
EFF provincial spokesperson Obakeng Lechuti said that the Serai family was treated with “disdain and arrogance”.
“The explanation from the department, displays how people are still treated as sub-human.
“We strongly believe that there is a lot more that could have been done to restore the dignity of the family. The department is spending millions of rand on useless self-enrichment projects and tenders.”
Lechuti indicated that a low-cost brick-and-mortar house could have been built for the family at less than R200 000, in less than 10 days.
“We urge the department and De Beers to issue a public apology within the next seven days, failing which we will take the matter forward.”
The spokesperson for the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison, Keitumetse Moticoe, said that the department intended to build a permanent home for the family.
“We are very much aware that we have entered a season of electioneering but we want to separate fact from fiction,” said Moticoe. “The Serai family lost a beloved child who will not be replaced by any amount of good deeds and sacrifice that all of us are called to do, in building a humane and caring society. We would like to appeal to all to be sensitive and mindful of how we raise our deep and strong views on the matter.”
She did not indicate in her response to media enquiries, how much provincial government spent on the shanty and if any of the funds were sponsored.
Moticoe also did not explain who would fund the construction of a new house for the family, where the house would be situated, the completion date and whether the family members would have access to running water and sanitation.
She said that the department had made use of limited resources in a short space of time.
“The department, in partnership with all stakeholders, including the Department of Education and De Beers amongst others, had tried to look at the best possible ways to decisively intervene. We had to use all available and limited resources in realising our objective of this noble idea but, unfortunately, it did not come into realisation in our desired time frame.”
Moticoe explained that an agreement was reached with the family and all concerned to build a temporary home for the family, while they were looking for partnerships to assist with the erection of a permanent structure for the family.
She added that they had assisted one of the family members in finding employment. “This will ensure that there is a source of income in the household as they were exposed to conditions of squalor and hardship.”
Moticoe added that the department had built a recreational facility at ER Mocwaledi Intermediate School, in memory of Refentse, that was made possible by a generous donation from De Beers and collaborative efforts with other stakeholders such as the Department of Education and the school.
“We will not abandon the family until we meet their expectations, because they appreciate all efforts put together by all stakeholders.
Perhaps, the cardinal question should be what can we all do to help this family who is in great need of regaining their dignity and standing?”