Fifteen Department of Human Settlement employees have been implicated in the illegal occupation of government housing units meant for low-income earners at Hillside View in Bloemfontein.
Following the state capture recommendations to root out corruption, the Department of Human Settlements and the South African Police Service conducted a verification visit to the settlement in Bloemfontein on Tuesday evening (25 October) following allegations of fraudulent occupation and renting out of the units.
The investigation found that Free State Human Settlements officials occupy or rent out low-cost housing units for profit.
“Unfortunately, there are officials within the department that aim to defraud the state and enrich themselves by either occupying these low-income houses and renting them out for profit,” said The Free State MEC for Human Settlement Mxolisi Dukwana in an interview with SABC News.
He added that some of the houses aren’t even occupied and are solely used by the implicated officials for private occasions such as drinking and partying.
According to Dukwana, there are close to 600 houses within the Hillside View settlement, and he estimates that around 60% of the houses are occupied illegally.
While some of the residents of these homes are innocent victims, Dukwana said that many are accomplices of the corrupt officials, actively disadvantaging beneficiaries that should be occupying these homes.
Many innocent bystanders caught in the operation’s crosshairs say that they now fear homelessness, asking how they can trust that this won’t happen to them again.
Dukwana said that the matter is still an ongoing investigation and that the department aims to remove all those that are not supposed to be in the houses before allocating them to deserving beneficiaries.
However, in 2021, the Department of Human Settlements was accused of neglecting the Hillside View Integrated Residential Development Project, which the department denied – News24 reported.
The department’s spokesperson Senne Bogatsu said that a total of 531 beneficiaries had been approved at the time. Still, delays to construction and connecting the homes to the water and electricity grid meant that occupation stalled, said News24.
Bogatsu said that the beneficiaries were relocated as their houses were being completed and services installed and that the department would ensure contractors would secure the empty homes.
It seems now that this was not the case, which could be the circumstances that rendered these homes open for corrupt officials to take advantage of.
Nevertheless, Dukwana has said that the hawks are involved, and arrests will be made. He added that the department intends to end the practice and restore the dignity of the victims of corruption.