Kingfisher FM provides a voice for voiceless

Headman Gqokoma and his wife in their Soweto-on-Sea home which has suffered damage during months without a roof.
Hope that justice will be done for home-improvement-fiasco victims before Christmas

Will 43 Port Elizabeth families who are the victims of a RDP-rectification project gone wrong be able to move back into their houses before Christmas? Will they be compensated for their floors and furniture that have been damaged during the building fiasco?

Port Elizabeth Christian Family Lifestyle Radio Station, Kingfisher FM General Manager Theunis Pienaar is hopeful that the answer to both questions will be YES. The station, which responded to a SOS call from a desperate resident of Soweto-on-Sea in late November, has taken up the residents’ shameful treatment with authorities. They have also mobilised public support for the families who have been living in ramshackle shacks for six months after contractors removed the roofs from their homes during the course of a home improvement exercise that should have been completed in two to four weeks.

Pienaar said that the resident who initially called Kingfisher FM about the housing crisis, said he was concerned about the 43 victim families — mostly old people who were looking after their grandchildren  — and about the message it sent to his community: that they weren’t important, or valued.

Finally!…a roof gets replaced.

During a fact finding mission on behalf of Kingfisher FM, Pienaar established that the National Government has enlisted the services of the Housing Development Agency to rectify RDP-homes, which were built in the late 90’s.  The Housing Development Agency appointed principal contractors and the process started. For the most part the rectification of 2 500 homes went well. But for these 43 families in ward 27 of Soweto-on-Sea, it did not.

Kingfisher FM’s investigation found that what should’ve taken 2 – 4 weeks, was dragging along without any progress for more than six months and no one had picked up on the issue or seemed to be concerned about it.

Weather damage
While the 43 families were stuck in dilapidated shacks, their furniture, built-in cupboards and flooring was being destroyed by wind and weather and rain.

The principal contractor who had taken the roofs off their homes had not put their furniture in storage and had no urgency to complete the rectification. Internal issues were cited as the reason for the delay.

Kingfisher FM was touched by the plight of these people and started voicing their desperate situation on The Big Breakfast programme, on Facebook, YouTube and WordPress.

The councillor of the ward in which these people live was interviewed. The representative of the principal contractor, who was responsible in many ways, was also interviewed and a promise was solicited: he would have the homes completed & the people back in them by the 21st of December.

Kingfisher FM followed-up on the progress and realised that no one was speaking of the loss these families suffered. Although it seemed as if their homes would be completed and  they would be able to move back in, no one was willing to take responsibility for the damage to their furniture, built-in cupboards and flooring.

Kingfisher FM then interviewed the Executive Deputy Mayor, Nancy Sihlwayi, about the issue and she made a promise that she would call a meeting with the Housing Development Agency, the councillor of the ward and the principle contractor, specifically to address this issue.

Pienaar says he is still hopeful that the meeting promised by the Deputy Mayor will be called and somehow the affected people will be restored

Something else happened while Kingfisher FM gave a voice to these vulnerable voiceless people: others were inspired to get involved however they could, by raising their own voices and by giving what they had. The people of Soweto-on-Sea expressed their own gratitude and communities were brought closer to each other.

Pienaar observes: “Perhaps this is what happens when people love relentlessly? Our bit of world is affected. Perhaps this is what Church is all about? Not being ‘mighty’ or ‘important’ or ‘professional’, but being love. Active. Visible.”

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