Home, no sweet home

Vusi Ndlovu

Vusi Ndlovu

When Bongani Mkhize of Mea- dowlands in Soweto bought a house in Glen Ridge, on the western outskirts of Soweto, he was sure he had taken another step towards a better life.

But painful reality struck the day after he had moved into the new housefor which he had paid R186000.

"I occupied the house on December 13 2006. When I opened an outside tap the next day, the water was boiling hot because the tap was connected to the geyser," said Mkhize.

That was only the beginning of his nightmare, as defect after defect appeared. Within days, Mkhize had discovered serious faults with the windows, roof, walls and bathroom.

"Dust comes in through the windows when it is windy. The doors don't close properly and the gutters are already leaking," Mkhize said.

"When I complained, the developer would not listen. I ended up going to their offices to fight with them. The house I left in Meadowlands, which is decades older, did not give me the kind of problems I am having here."

Similar problems face other homeowners who left their matchbox homes to buy better houses in this apparently fanciful suburb.

Residents, builders and banking officials say that almost every house that has been built in Glen Ridge is having to be repaired.

The unfortunate homeowners, who moved into their dream houses have been told to vacate their homes lock, stock and barrel while the problems are being attended to.

Sowetan visited Glen Ridge after receiving a stream of complaints about the poor workmanship on the houses.

We discovered that many of the brand new houses have crooked and cracked walls, storm-damaged roofs, badly fitted ceilings and leaking taps, pipes and geysers.

Later, we visited the show houses that agents use to entice buyers and found that they are perfect and nothing like the houses sold to people.

Residents said they had complained to the developer, B-Houzd Construction, but had received no satisfaction.

The developers either do not fix the defects or attend to only some of the problems.

The Glen Ridge development was launched in a flood of excitement and optimism when leading financial institution First National Bank sponsored the 3000-home project last year.

The bank's spokesman, Xolisa Vapi, acknowledged that FNB had received myriad complaints from homeowners and that their representatives had confronted the developers.

"They told us that they did not have suitable equipment to build good-quality houses, but said they were fixing the problems," Vapi said.

B-Houzd refused to comment officially for this report, but one of their managers said the company was going ahead and building 180 houses a month at Glen Ridge.

A man known only as Nardus, believed to be the owner of B-Houzd, promised for more than a week to respond to our queries, but slammed down the telephone when we eventually caught up with him.

Ntombi Mashiyane, one of the homeowners whose dreams were dashed by the sloppy construction, said the foundation of her house was faulty, the walls were cracked, the house was not properly painted and the sewerage pipe leaked.

"I don't know what to do. We met FNB and the bank promised to look into the matter, but nothing has happened. It's unfair because we have to continue paying the bond," Mashiyane said.

Mathew Mamabolo said the walls of his house were crooked and the windows did not close.

"I can't close the window from inside the house. I have to go outside and push it and my wife has to turn the handle from the inside," Mamabolo said.

The ceiling is collapsing.

"I took three weeks' leave earlier this year when the construction company promised to fix the mess, but they did not pitch up.

"I eventually had to pay another builder to replace the bathroom fittings because the company had used old materials. These houses are rejects," Mamabolo said.