Shady house sales
A desperate wish to own their own houses has driven residents of Warden and Vrede in Free State to agree to buy RDP houses from the Phumelela local municipality.
Residents of Thembelihle Extension 4 in Vrede said municipal officials told them if they wanted houses they should pay R1,200.
They showed Sowetan their receipts.
Though the money was paid in at the municipal offices in Vrede, receipts do not indicate what they were paying for.
The houses in question are 250 newly built RDPs in the area.
Paulos Nhlapo is among those who could not afford to raise the money.
"I was told I should pay in full before my new house would be handed over to me," he said. "I have negotiated with them that I will pay in instalments. I am desperate to own a house."
Lindiwe Tshabalala said she borrowed money to buy her house in October last year and was given the keys in January this year.
"I didn't want to miss such an opportunity. Officials told us their policy was 'no money, no keys'," said Tshabalala.
Pensioner Roseline Sibeko saved two months of her pension payouts in order to purchase the house.
"I had no option but to starve myself and my grandchildren for two months in order for us to have a house. We were told if we didn't pay our house would be given to those who had money," she said.
In Ezenzeleni in Warden, about 300km away, residents also said they were told to buy RDP houses if they wanted to own them.
Ezenzeleni is also part of the Phumelela local municipality.
Residents said municipal officials told them in 2010 that if they did not raise R800, houses meant for them would be sold to people with money.
Sowetan has also seen their receipts. They contain the municipality's name, the amount paid and the words "sell of site (sic)".
The residents say they were initially told they were buying vacant stands, but it later transpired they were buying RDP houses.
They claimed the money was collected by municipal officials. They were also promised electricity - but this has not happened.
Wheelchair-bound July Thwala, 63, bought his house on December 12 2010 for R800.
"I wanted to own a house, so I used my disability grant to pay for it. Officials from the municipality are the ones who gave me the keys after I had paid. I expected that by now my house would be electrified as promised," Thwala said.
Ralekata Molefe, 83, also paid for her house on December 12 2010 - also using her pension grant.
"When these houses were built we were told they were for pensioners. But after they were completed we were ordered to pay before occupying them," Molefe said.
Provincial department of cooperative governance, traditional affairs and human settlements spokesman Ntai Mokhitli said it was illegal to sell RDPs and the department would investigate the allegations.
"There is no justification whatsoever for selling government-built low-cost houses intended for the poor. It is unknown who gave the municipality the authority to sell the houses," Mokhitli said.