"A MAN'S house is never finished," Confucius once said and in IsiZulu we say indlu ayibongi. Loosely translated that means a house is ungrateful.
You never stop fixing a house so it's heartbreaking when you hire someone to renovate your house, pay him a fortune and still have an incomplete house.
Phindiwe Mthiyane of Birchleigh North in Kempton Park, Gauteng, wanted to renovate her kitchen. A neighbour referred her to Jason Lemkus of Lemkus Refurbishers in November 2009.
Lemkus said he would be able to give Mthiyane her dream kitchen for R90100. He asked her to pay 60percent upfront so he could start refurbishing her kitchen before the festive season.
"I rushed and paid because I was expecting visitors in December, but made a laughing stock of myself because Lemkus has left my kitchen in tatters," Mthiyane said.
Lemkus has tiled part of the kitchen floor, installed four new cupboards without doors, installed aluminum window frames and tiled a section of the kitchen. There are nine tiles missing on the wall.
Mthiyane said Lemkus failed to connect her sink properly
"He ripped off the top boards, leaving the cupboards open for everyone to see their contents and this is what he did for the R60000 we paid him in November," Mthiyane said.
She said after these partial refurbishings Lemkus demanded further payment. She refused to pay him because she realised he was not honouring his undertaking.
Lumkas sent the following excuses via SMS to the Mthiyanes : "I'm still busy with cupboards; sorry to disturb you so late. Pointless for me to come see you tom morn as it's a short day because everything closing early for the Easter holidays";
"Jacky will come on Sat 03 April to check the geyser.";
"Balance of shells and doors were ordered on 30 March, will be ready on 15 Apr.
"Tiling will be completed on 23 Apr. Stove, oven and accessories will follow on 27 Apr. Kitchen will be completed on 04 May.
"I apologise once again for the delay. This is the best I can do. Small things will be done while we waiting for materials, eg Gas cage etc. Thanks, Jason";
"I'm running a bit late. Cupboards plus granite not ready. I am just as frustrated as you. The longer it takes, the more it costs me. I will contact you this afternoon to let you know delivery dates. Thanks Jason."
But when Consumer Line called him for comment, Lemkus initially said the Mthiyanes had no money to pay him for the work they commissioned him to do.
He said he did not want to burn his fingers and complete the couple's kitchen without their making a written commitment that they will pay the balance of the money.
"There is a flip side to the coin. She never signed an acknowledgement of debt that I SMSed her."
Lemkus said his was a very small company and there were clients who owed him as much as R100000 for kitchen units he had installed.
He said Mthiyane never responded to his SMS and having realised that it was impossible to persuade a client to sign an SMS, He said it was also possible that Mthiyane had not received it.
He said he had spent the R59000 they had paid as a deposit for the stove, granite, doors and other paraphernalia. He said he had sent handwritten receipts bearing his signature on his letterhead.
"I have completed 90 percent of the work. I want to complete it but they must pay me," he said.
"I want to and I am willing to complete the job even if it means borrowing money to do so, but they must commit themselves in writing to paying the balance," Lemkus said.
He told Consumer Line that he helps all his clients to the best of his ability and that he is even prepared to borrow money on behalf of his clients.
"I take pride in what I do and I do not want to fight with Mthiyane. He is a fantastic man," Lemkus said.
When the Consumer Line team visited the Mthiyanes at their home last Thursday we noted that Lemkus had not completed the 90 percent of the work he had claimed to have done.
He had only installed four new cupboard shells without doors and the aluminum widow frames.
He had also not yet fitted some floor tiles in a small section above the gas stove area.
Only a portion of the kitchen ceiling had been completed. He had removed the oven but not refitted it.
While his quotation stipulates that he had to re-tile the entire kitchen floor and walls, this had not been done.
Lemkus had to replace seven cupboard shells with doors and handles according to the quotation.
He had also not replaced the existing carcasses with the new black ebony wooden doors he was supposed to have.
The replaced sink leaks. The grocery cupboards have no doors.
The Mthiyanes said Lemkus had not delivered the gas stove, the Rustenburg granite or four chairs for the breakfast nook.
"But he has the nerve to tell you we have not paid him," Phindiwe Mthiyane said.
Lemkus did not comment after we sent him pictures of incomplete the kitchen.