Elated 76-year-old gran dreams of moving into new house

Canaan Mdletshe

Canaan Mdletshe

The poverty-stricken Maphumulo family on the outskirts of Mbumbulu, outside Durban, received an early Christmas present yesterday when Habitat Humanity organisation and eThekwini municipality started building a four-roomed house for her.

Habitat Humanity has been appointed by the department of housing to speed up the housing development process.

The 12-member family has been living in a dilapidated five-roomed rondavel since they could not afford to build a better house.

Family head and widow Ngakhephi Maphumulo, 76, could not hold back the tears when contractors and residents gathered to build her "dream house".

"I don't know if I will get a chance to live in it," she said, sobbing. "Maybe I will die before I even set my foot in the house. I feel honoured and special that my grandchildren will have a better home when I die."

Maphumulo said she never even dreamt of having a brick house, let alone a four-roomed one.

"I still can't believe it," she said. "I will only believe it once I set my foot in it. For now it is as if I am dreaming."

Maphumulo said she had been living in poverty for as long as she can remember. Life became even harder when her husband was killed in a faction fight in 1984.

"Since then I have been struggling to make ends meet," Maphumulo said. "When he died he left me with eight children. Four have passed away and those who are still alive are unemployed.

"I have seven grandchildren who are all my responsibility. Life has been so difficult because we survive on my old-age pension and food prices are sky-rocketing. I only pray to God for survival."

Of her seven grandchildren only three get child support grants.

Mpho Mthembu, of the office of the deputy city manager, said the family was identified by health workers and members of the ward committee.

She said once a family has been identified as needy a written application is made to Habitat, which verifies the situation before a house is built.

"The project was piloted in ward 100 and we will build 75 houses in this area, Mthembu said. "But that does not mean if a house is destroyed in KwaMashu we will fold our arms and not do anything.

"Our target is to build at least 500 houses a year."