When President Cyril Ramaphosa visited Kanyamazane township this past Sunday, he left smiles and joy to the many people that he spent about two hours in their homes, except the Nkosi family.
One young ANC activist, Sikhulile Mokoena, pleaded with the president’s crew to visit the family, almost blocking the president from getting into his luxurious black BMW SUV vehicle.
“Asiyeni ka Shisaboy!” He shouted at the top of his voice, but the presidential protection services and local and regional ANC leaders shoved him aside and whisked the president away to an undisclosed location to freshen up before going to the stadium two hours later.
Mokoena left, dejected. He was headed to the Kanyamazane stadium where ANC supporters were slowly flocking to listen to their president when The New Era-Ziwaphi team intercepted him and accepted his invitation.
He took us to house number 1307 Kanyanazane.
We found a little shack, next to a four roomed apartheid era “match-box” house.
The entire roof had been blown off -courtesy of a storm that devastated Kanyamazane township in May 2018.
The only shelter in the house is the concrete passage that links the two bedrooms, kitchen and toilet. This is where the geyser is located.
The mattress in the main bedroom was visibly worn out, or should I say, washed out? from the rains and sun for almost a year.
“We requested that they (government officials) assist us with a tent just to protect our furniture, but they never kept their promise,” said Phindile Nkosi who built the shack next to the house.
She said she regretted that they they didn’t build a bigger shack to protect their furniture because they trusted the government officials and contractors who promised them swift action.
“They gave us the impression that they’d sort the issue quicker, but nothing has happened since last year,” said Nkosi.
When the Kanyamazane community goes to cast their ballots in May 2019, it will be exactly one year since the storm hit the township, leaving a trail of destruction and disrupting people’s lives.
What was seemingly decent furniture now looks just like rubble. Tables look like old wood and what remains of the mattresses are rusted wires.
Nkosi shares the small yard with his brother, Michael, who was already at the stadium to listen to the president.
He said he’s unemployed, but still sleeps in the house that has no roof. He uses the chairs in the passage as his bed.
Michael has lost hope that their house would ever be fixed.
He said soon after the storm last year, officials who claimed they were from Disaster Management visited them and took their details and promised to act swiftly
“Thereafter a lady by the name of Amanda, a contractor, visited us and said they’d demolish the house and build a new one.”
“Contractors started with our neighbours’ houses on both sides and I went to ask them why I was being left out. They told me that they were following a specific schedule,” said Michael Nkosi.
Afterwards they disappeared and when he went to the site office they had already moved.
“I went to Amanda because I knew her, she told me the same story, that they’d demolish the house and build a new one. That was last year, but she also disappeared,” said Michael Nkosi
Nkosi said that the week before the president’s visit, ANC leaders came to his house and also took his details for the umpteenth time.
“They said they were going to ask Ms Zigane (an ANC councillor in the Ward). They promised me that the president would visit my house,” said Michael Nkosi.
It was for this reason that Mokoena had insisted that they visit the house.
We finally asked Mokoena why he was unhappy.
He said there are allegations that the reason the houses have not been fixed is because of corruption and that those responsible be brought to book.
“I’m unhappy that while other houses have been fixed, others have not and no one bothers about them anymore. Those who have stolen the money must be arrested and if no money was stolen, then they must use the money to fix all the houses,” said Mokoena.
Spokesperson for the department of human settlements in Mpumalanga Province, Freddy Ngobe refuted the corruption allegations.
“There’re no corruption issues. The only problem that we encountered is that the province did not have enough money to deal with the 1050 houses that were damaged. We only had R19 million for the entire province on the disaster management budget,” said Ngobe.
He said they were hoping to get assistance from the national government, but that has taken longer than they had anticipated.
“We also had to redirect budgets for new houses to fix the houses that were affected by the storm,” he said.
He also asked for the details of the Nkosi family to investigate why they had still not been assisted by now.
As we left the Nkosi homestead, the only items that show that this was once a home are are two black sofas, with leather like finish, which seems to have survived the extreme Lowveld escarpment weather.
“If the president had visited my house, those are the sofas where the president would have sat. Nakanjani,” said Michael Nkosi who still showed a sense of humour.