Over R8.5 billion will be required over a seven-year period to move over 28 000 families who are now residing on high-risk dolomitic land in Khutsong, Gauteng’s West Rand.
Senior municipal officials, including the Mayor and the Acting Municipal Manager, appeared before the Gauteng Legislature’s Standing Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, according to the Merafong Local Municipality (COGTA). Some families, though, are refusing to be transferred.
Dolomite is underlain by the Merafong Municipality, and it is harming a number of communities, including Carletonville, Welverdiend, and Khutsong.
Since 2016, the situation in Khutsong has deteriorated drastically. Ageing water infrastructure and poor maintenance have resulted in sustained ingress of water into the ground spaces contributing to the formation of sinkholes.
Acting Merafong Municipal Manager Siyethemba Mdletshe says there are about 219 sinkhole events in Khutsong and about 77 families have so far been relocated to safer ground.
“There is a need for the municipality to have an emergency plan to address the issues of sinkhole rehabilitation, and the rehabilitation of the wet infrastructure services. That requires in total around 50 million, but just for a temporary solution on the infrastructure we require about 5 million because the current infrastructure that we have is the old design made of asbestos and we need to now comply in terms of the SANS standards to install the HDPE pipes of wet infrastructure pipes.”
Khutsong resettlement programme
The Housing Development Agency, an implementing agency of the National Human Settlements Department, has been mandated to coordinate the Khutsong Resettlement programme.
This will see the relocation of formal and informal housing units located on high-risk dolomitic land across the Khutsong North extensions.
Mdletshe says this will cost over R8. 5 billion over a seven-year period.
“So, the cost is increasing and as a result of also the sewer spillages that are currently occurring, it means that the formation of sinkholes is more prone to recur. We have 15 000 informal settlements that require to be relocated. The initial plan was around 24 000 families but the report from H.D.A to date we need to relocate approximately 28 600 families that are affected.”
However, not everyone is willing to be relocated. Seventy-three-year-old, Mamokete Malebo and her now-deceased husband arrived in Khutsong in 1972 and with their hard-earned money managed to build their family an 11 rooms facebrick house.
In November last year, their house started shaking vigorously, uprooting ceramic tiles, and now a massive gaping hole, the size of a tennis court has developed below their bedroom window.
Malebo says, “Our outside toilet and that of our neighbour fell into this massive sinkhole. I had put a big container with firewood it, there was a wheelbarrow, bicycles and other things all fell into the hole. We have never seen them till today.”
Her entire house has developed gaping cracks, so wide that one can put their fingers in them.
There’s crackling noise as you walk through it. Several attempts have been made by the municipality to relocate her and her family to an RDP house or government built block of flats, but she has refused.
“I wish I can run away and never see this house again. I long for my husband, all our strength were invested into this house. Imagine being told to go live in the flats with big furniture like this, these big couches, every bedroom has big headboard and beds. Where will I take these when I move into a flat or RDP house.”
Merafong Mayor Nozuko Best says there’s a need to review the housing policy.
Best says, “I know we can’t provide mansions. But there must be a difference in square meters. The square metres that are used for your Military Veterans’ houses is different from the ordinary RDP houses. Maybe there can be a provision that is made for people that have bigger houses even if they do not get the size of houses they are occupying currently.”
Rider Nkachela from The Dolomitic Risk and Vulnerability task team, a community-based structure advocating for community issues in Khutsong, believes the relocation is a ploy to make money.
“They want to do away with Khutsong so that they can come and mine here, there is lots of resources here. So, we don’t want that. We want our township back.”
VIDEO: Billions will be needed to relocate people from sinkhole-prone Khutsong:
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