Corporate Social Investment

IDC pitches in to build homes

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Staff have signed up to help build houses in Orange Farm with Habitat For Humanity South Africa, and are spending the week mixing mortar rather than at their desks.

October 2, 2012

An IDC volunteer busy building Pulane Mokoena's new houseAn IDC volunteer busy building Pulane Mokoena's new house

On a sweltering early summer day, Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) staff swapped their suits for overalls and spades to build seven houses for deserving families in Orange Farm. The first day of the five-day build started promisingly on Monday, 1 October.

The seven families join another 43 families living in sub-standard dwellings in Extension 6A that stand to benefit from Habitat For Humanity South Africa's partnership with the IDC and 23 private companies.

Early in the morning, volunteers from various IDC departments and units were divided into seven groups, each had to ensure that by the end of the day they would have built the walls of the seven houses – numbered two to eight – up to roof-height. Each group was allocated an experienced builder.

"We have to ensure all seven houses are finished by Friday. However, we are ready for the challenge and we are proud to be part of this project," said Tebogo Molefe, the IDC's corporate social investment manager.

Despite a slow start, IDC staff, who included the head of corporate communications, Kesebone Maema, and the Green Industries strategic business unit head, Rentia van Tonder, quickly worked up a sweat mixing mortar, pushing wheelbarrows full of bricks and lugging buckets of water.

At house number seven, Van Tonder, who was taking big swigs of water from a plastic bottle during a break, admitted she was struggling to keep up with the other workers. "At the moment I am struggling a bit because we are very few. But I am enjoying every minute out here," she said.

Third stint as volunteer

Mary Ketja outside her shackMary Ketja outside her shackIt was the third time she was volunteering to build houses in Orange Farm, she said, but every time was a different experience. "I have been able to meet other staff from the IDC, people I wouldn't have had the chance to meet. This project actually brings us together," she said, before hurrying up to feed the builder with more mortar.

At house number five, 52-year-old Mary Ketja was helping to carry bricks into her yard. Ketja said she first volunteered to build houses under the Habitat For Humanity housing programme in 2008 and is one of the lucky ones to benefit this year.

Ketja lives with her five children and nine grandchildren in a four-room shack and survives on a government grant. She said because of the huge number of people living with her, she would keep her shack until she got money to extend the new two-bedroomed Habitat For Humanity house being built for her.

"I am very happy to get a new house and I thank God for standing by me all these years. I feel like I am dreaming," she said, tears of joy welling up in her eyes.

She is one of the seven beneficiaries who will have a decent roof over their heads come Friday, 5 October, thanks to the organisation's People's Housing Process. In the programme, Habitat For Humanity South Africa works with the existing leadership structures in Orange Farm to form committees to oversee and assist in the smooth running of the project on the ground.

Criteria to get a home

Beneficiaries have to meet certain criteria to qualify for a house. The family must earn a combined monthly income of not more than R3 500; it must be living in sub-standard housing; it must own the land on which the house will be built and be in possession of the Title Deed or Permission to Occupy certificate; the family must qualify for a South African government housing subsidy; and most importantly, families must perform sweat equity – physically work on other people's homes before qualifying for their own house.

A block away from Ketja's house, at house number two, Anna Mofokeng is the owner of stand 9956. Looking frail and flanked by two of her grandchildren, she said she was born in 1948 and lived in a "squatter camp" just outside Orange Farm since 1991.

Because of her age, Mofokeng cannot help build her new house, but her grandson, who is in Grade 8, is filling in for her, mixing mortar and passing bricks to the builders. "I can't believe that after living in a leaky shack all these years I will finally move into a new home with a toilet with running water," she said.

The other beneficiaries all had similar stories: 57-year-old pensioner Mpho Rosa Lejela, 47-year-old Joyce Dlamini, 60-year-old Sainni Hlangana, 27-year-old Pulane Mokena, and the only man in the group, Mandla Petrus Socala, all told of the difficulties they had encountered living in leaky and rickety shacks for the past 20 years.

Lejela broke her arm volunteering to build a house for one of her neighbours "some years ago". She said her dream to own a decent house had come true. She lives in a two-room shack with her son Tshepo. "I have been volunteering to build Habitat [For Humanity] houses for some time now despite hurting myself in the process. This new house is reward enough for me," she said.

A builder by profession, Socala said he wanted his house to be finished first and that he would be working hard in the following four days to ensure this. "My building experience will come in handy," he said with a smile.

The IDC group would continue its build today, "and hopefully there will be more staff available to continue where they left off", Molefe said.

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