Creating habitats in Madiba’s name

Friday, July 21, 2017

By Nosihle Shelembe

Until five years ago, 56-year-old Thokozile Mthembu lived in a shack for the most part of her adult life.

Like many in her community of Orange Farm, south of Joburg, the winter months felt like years. The shacks, made up of corrugated iron, are extremely hot in summer and extremely cold in winter.

These structures are not ideal to live in and Mthembu thought that would be the situation she would have to bear all her life. That was until she was introduced to a humanitarian organisation that would change her life forever.

The Habitat for Humanity South Africa (HHSA) is a non-profit organisation that has made fighting poverty its mission.  One of its programmes include building houses for people who live in informal dwellings. Five years ago, the organisation responded to Thokozile’s plight and has since made a difference to many households by building 3 600 houses in 32 communities across the country.

The organisation has changed the lives of thousands as it has built about 3 600 houses in 32 communities in the country. HHSA has been in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation since 2012 with a mission to bring people together to help those in need.

“This call brings to life Nelson Mandela’s legacy in asking everyone to take action to turn the tide on poverty. In partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation wehave facilitated house builds in Pelican Park and in Orange Farm Extension 6 in previous years,” says Director Patrick Kulati.

This week, South Africans from all corners of the country celebrated the International Mandela Day and saw people dedicating their time and efforts to improving the conditions within their own communities for 67 minutes.

It was in 2008 that Mandela made the call for people globally to make the world a better place by helping those in need.

This year, the Nelson Mandela Foundation urged South Africans and the world to continue with the efforts well beyond July 18 in honour of Nelson Mandela under the theme: “taking action against poverty.”

For organisations like HSSA, their work never ends and for them every day is a ‘Mandela Day’.

Kulati says the organisation, founded in 1996, is dedicated to the long-term development and sustainability of South Africa’s low-income housing sector and is focused on building thriving communities. Theirs is an ongoing effort to change lives for the better.

“With the support of active citizens and stakeholder partners, we empower communities through leadership, skills development and self-belief to take the lead in their own development,” he says.The organisation has offices in Cape Town, KwaZulu-Natal as well as Gauteng and plans to deepen its impact through expanding its programmes into other South African provinces where shelter is identified as a critical concern. 

For the next two financial years, improving shelter conditions through volunteering will be the organisation’s core priority.

“We intend to create volunteer build opportunities for private individuals, corporates and donor organisations to contribute to the construction and/or repair of houses.”

Meanwhile, Mthembu, a single mother of four has nothing but praise for the organisation which built her a two bedroom house fitted with a toilet, kitchen and a living room, five years ago.

“Before Habitat for Humanity SA built a house for me. I used to stay in a one room shack. When it was raining, the roof would leak and all my furniture would get wet,” says Mthembu.

Now she lives in a house that has running water and electricity.

“I am now like other people who live in decent houses. I am proud of my house. I am happy with the house that Habitat for Humanity SA built for me. I do not have words to express the way that I feel,” she says.  –

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