By ARETHA LINDEN

TENANTS of Southernwood Square in East London fear for their safety after 15 units were flooded in last weekend’s heavy rains.

“This place is not safe. It can collapse at any time,” said a tenant, who added that a number of residents were now planning to move out.

Southernwood Square is an initiative of the national Department of Human Settlements and the Own Haven Housing Association.

It was officially launched by Housing Minister Tokyo Sexwale and MEC for human settlements, Helen August-Sauls, in February last year.

Speaking at the opening, Sexwale said the project would help those who could not afford luxury apartments. But tenants said when they applied for the low-cost modern accommodation they never expected it to have such “low standards”.

Chairman of a committee representing tenants, Lungelo Nazo, said their complaints about various issues including poor workmanship had fallen on deaf ears.

“We have engaged the province, national and the president’s office several times but nothing has been done. We are still waiting. We also have security issues and we are being overcharged for rent.”

Problems identified by Nazo included cracked walls, damp and a defective drainage system.

Tenant Lumka Walaza, who lives on the fourth floor, said water poured into her unit during the heavy rains and as a result she was looking for another place to live.

“The general upkeep was never proper in the first place and we always knew that something like this would happen. I’ve had enough of this place and its problems.”

Another resident Apleni Zondelelo said after their rooms flooded the first time nothing was done to prevent it happening again.

“I do not feel safe at all. This building could collapse at any moment. Every time it rains we have to move our household items due to the leaks,” said Zondelelo.

Own Haven managing director Andrew Wiseman said he was aware of the flooding caused by roof leaks.

“We have currently contacted contractors who will be fixing the roof leakages. And we have assisted the tenants that were affected in cleaning-up their rooms,” said Wiseman.

But this was disputed by the committee and tenants, who claimed nothing had been done to help them.

“We had to vacuum our own place; no one even came to inspect the damage,” said Zondelelo.

Spokesman for the department of human settlements Lwandile Sicwetsha confirmed that complaints were made to the Rental Housing Tribunal which was busy processing them.

But the tribunal would not consider complaints about structural defects. “We must emphasise that the tribunal doesn’t have any jurisdiction to deal with issues of defects or maintenance of properties.

“The issue of flooding is being attended to by Own Haven. The tribunal is currently handling issues of rental dispute which have been submitted by the tenants,” Sicwetsha said.

Nazo said they would meet with the tenants on Wednesday to discuss the next step. — arethal@dispatch.co.za