Hundreds of state-built houses are standing empty – even though the province has a delivery backlog of 60 0000 homes.
The state is unable to trace the rightful beneficiaries to at least 385 low-cost homes. Instead of reassigning them, however, it has left the units vacant.
Some have been so badly vandalised, they are no longer habitable.
Provincial human settlements spokesman Lwandile Sicwetsha said 150 of the houses were in Buffalo City Metro, 131 in Tsolwana, 79 in Elundini and 25 in the Aliwal North-based Maletswai municipality.
Sicwetsha said they had ordered the affected municipalities to de-register the missing beneficiaries.
There are thousands of people in the Eastern Cape who have been on the state’s housing waiting lists for decades.
Among them is Noxolo Malgas, 76, of Ginsberg, a grandmother of four.
Malgas shares her one-roomed house with her three children and four grandchildren.
She first registered her need for a house in 1996.
When BCM housing officials visited Ginsberg again in 2009, Malgas was reassured she still qualified and was on the list.
“My name has been on the list for 19 years now. We are beginning to lose hope,” said Malgas.
Sicwetsha said they suspected more cases of unclaimed houses would be identified in other municipalities.
To avoid further de-registrations, the department would inform beneficiaries of the importance of telling the department of any changes in their applications.
He said any unoccupied houses due to missing beneficiaries would be reassigned after June “so that other qualifying beneficiaries can be allocated the unoccupied houses”.
Another headache facing the state is illegal occupation of some RDP houses.
BCM mayor, Alfred Mtsi, announced on Wednesday that Reeston, where the metro had built more than 2000 RDP houses in 10 years, was one of the hot spots for illegal occupation.
Mtsi said they were left with no choice but to do an audit by visiting each house to verify that the correct beneficiaries occupied the house.
“We are not going to allow any illegal occupation and the cases that erupt in Reeston must stop.
“Beneficiaries are not going to be denied the opportunity of occupying their houses.
“We need to go door to door to check if the people in those houses are the rightful owners and remove all those who occupied houses illegally,” said Mtsi.
Sicwetsha said the problem of houses not being occupied by the original beneficiaries “was very big and widespread, not only across the province, but nationally as well”.
He said his department had even launched the “Beneficiary Correct Occupation” programme to verify that houses were occupied by the rightful owners.
Sicwetsha said they had established that the list of beneficiaries they received initially from municipalities had changed now that the houses were ready for occupation.
He blamed some councillors for doctoring the lists.
He said in some cases, local councillors were to blame for the mix-up, as some councillors allocated people to houses although they were not eligible to receive one. — firstname.lastname@example.orgemail@example.com