CHRISTMAS came early for the family of the late 22-year-old Sikhumbuzo Mhlongo yesterday when government leaders handed them the keys to a brand new house.

Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma handed over the keys to the four-roomed house at KwaNqetho outside Pinetown. She also gave thefamily Mhlongo's identity document.

Mhlongo committed suicide in September after Home Affairs officials refused to process his application for an ID.

He endured further humiliation when his application form was torn to pieces.

In a suicide letter, he accused the Pinetown officials of effectively preventing him from getting a job by tearing up hisapplication.

He also said he could not get an ID because he was not accompanied by his parents when he made the application.

The two officials linked to the case have been fired.

His sister, Zandile Mhlongo, said she was delighted to have the keys to her own home.

"I am very happy for this kind gesture, though it is sad that my brother is not here to witness it.

"He tried to keep us happy, but he opted for an easy way out after not being able to secure a job," she said.

Dlamini-Zuma was delighted that the family now had proper shelter.

"We cannot allow our people to suffer over things that are rightfully theirs. That is why my team and I are on a campaign to visit our offices unannounced. We must get rid of rotten potatoes.

"In order to turn things around we need to work together as a population."

Premier Zweli Mkhize said he was happy that the family was offered some comfort. "Government tries to help where it can. We hope that these young people keep their home dignified."

The officials also handed over another house to 78-year-old Hleziphi Ngcobo of Mpumalanga in Hammarsdale, who has been living in an unsafe house on the bank of a river since 1987.

Both families also receivedfurniture and groceries.