Bedridden 87-year old and eight siblings share one mud room

Thokozani Ndlovu outside the mud house where her family lives. Picture by GroundUp.
The Msunduzi Municipality, Bombay Road, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
Thokozani Ndlovu outside the mud house where her family lives. Picture by GroundUp.

The home of the Ndlovu family in Azalea, Pietermaritzburg, was demolished five years ago. This was part of a project by Msunduzi Municipality to replace structures with new houses, but the project has been delayed since 2010. The delay is due to overspending, says ward councilor Msizi Ngcobo.
The Ndlovu family are one of about 200 families that decided to build mud houses in order to have a place to sleep.

87-year old Mathombi Ndlovu is bedridden after she suffered a stroke six years ago. She is blind. Her house was one of those demolished and she now lives with eight siblings in one room.

“I prayed that I would die in my own house,” she told GroundUp. She wishes that her old house had not been destroyed. “I can’t move, so when it’s raining, my daughters have to cover me with black plastic bags because the roof leaks … We are living by the grace of God. I am sick and I wish that if I die that happens in my house.”

Gogo Mathombi Ndlovu sitting on her bed. Picture by GroundUp.

Ndlovu’s daughter, Thokozani Ndlovu who is 39, said life is difficult for the family; they have to nurse their sick mother everyday in a house with a leaking roof.

“In 2010, the municipality engaged itself in a project where they demolished our four-roomed houses,” she says. “We were promised that they will be replaced with better ones. Our mother was already sick at the time and we hoped the project will not have delays. In the same year, the project started, it stopped.

At that time, we were told that the reason for it to stop was a shortage of funds. The metal temporary houses they offered us were not enough, so we built a mud house. There are eight of us; we can’t fit in a one-roomed house. We bath and cook in the same room,” she said.

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Her younger sister, Nompilo Ndlovu, 29, recalled when a snake entered the one-roomed house. “We ran away from the house and we left my mother alone on her bed.”

She says, “When there are heavy rains, we go to friend’s houses, and leave her alone covered in plastic bags. It’s the only way until we get a proper house.”

One of the residents, Sthandwa Zondi, said, “Families are sharing rooms with friends. Some of us have opted to be tenants … Most of our siblings are tenants somewhere in the area.”

We are living by the grace of God. I am sick and I wish that if I die that happens in my house.

Ward 10 councilor Msizi Ngcobo confirmed that about 200 wire houses were demolished. He said he knows about the Ndlovu family and other residents in his ward.

“I am well aware of the difficulty the people are facing. We have talked about the matter and it looks promising. It’s true that the matter has been delayed and families are suffering. The project has been delayed due to a number issues with the internal structures of the Msunduzi Housing Department.

“The full council has agreed that the matter will be resolved. That includes finalizing the funding from the provincial Human Settlement Department. I have not gone back to the community with the feedback. I’m waiting for the final date for housing project to restart. The contractor has to make its final submission as when it will start,” said Ngcobo.

Member of the Msunduzi Housing Portfolio Eunice Majola said there are developments with the project but internal issues within the ward are causing the delay. “The internal issues between ward councilor and the community are causing the delay but the matter has been discussed,” said Majola.