Thelma Mokoeqo, 54, was thankful when Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize visited her home in Phillipi in the Western Cape on Friday.

Inviting him into her home, she said it was the first time ever that a government Minister had ever paid her a visit.

However, her facial expression soon changed when Mkhize asked her to share the details of her difficult living conditions, lack of services and the very real fear of her home burning down in a shack fire.

She said she had been living in the area for the past 22 years.

Minister, we live under a street light but my house does not have electricity, we have children and some of them end up getting electrocuted by the illegal electricity connections that we have had no option but to get.

[Houses get burnt] in the area. There is a young man who was burnt beyond recognition in his shack in this area. We have asked that we are relocated to another piece of land but that has not happened, she said.

Mokoeqo and her eight children and grandchildren live in a tiny shack, where the living area and the bedroom are separated by a curtain. Her shack, and those of others in the area, are built so close together, she said, that whenever there is a funeral, mourners have to walk on the roofs of the shacks when moving the coffin with the deceased.

She said her plea for better living conditions � to be relocated to a piece of land with better housing � had been raised with the City of Cape Town but no feedback has been forthcoming.

After listening to Mokoeqo’s concerns, Mkhize said the challenges would be escalated to relevant municipal authorities.

He was in Phillipi on Friday afternoon to interact with community members to get a sense of their living conditions and service delivery challenges.

We came to visit you so that we can understand what is happening in the area and what your living conditions are. What we will then do, we will go talk to local authorities to get to understand what they are doing about your challenges, Mkhize said.

Mkhize then moved on to meet the Manona family, where Phumla, 63, lives with her husband Lulama, 62, in structure built out of zinc.

Although a bit more spacious when compared to Mokoeqo’s house, their son Anele, 31, said their living conditions and socio-economic situation is not ideal and that the family suffered inter-generational unemployment. His sister was the only person with a stable income.

Phumla Manona and her family have been staying in the area for about 20 years and in all that time she had not seen a government leader visit them to listen to their complaints.

Like Mokoeqoe, Manona complained about living in fear of her home being burnt down. She told the Minister that one morning she and her neighbours woke up to the sight of a burnt body in what is suspected to be a necklacing incident.

She also complained about the lack of decent ablution facilities in the area.

At a community Imbizo later on in the day, residents took turns to tell the Minister, who was accompanied by Deputy Minister Andries Nel, about criminality in the area, a lack of basic services such as water, sanitation and electricity and a lack of street lighting, which they said contributed to crime.

Mkhize said he would take all their concerns and escalate them to the relevant local authorities in the area.

Residents also complained about alleged abuse of the Community Work Programme, which gives residents work opportunities and extra income to support them in their search for full-time employment.

The programme, among other things, employs unemployed people of working age to clean streets and schools.

Residents accused the companies who had been appointed as implementing agents of nepotism and of not paying stipends due to them � with some not being paid since March.

Mkhize said the allegations would be investigated and complaints related to service delivery would be escalated to the local mayor.

Source: South African Government News Agency