There was a time when Dorothy Lerm, 61, wanted to give up all hope of ever having a home of her own, but her despair turned into joy when she was among the first 20 beneficiaries to receive their house keys from Mayor Patricia de Lille for the City of Cape Town’s Hazendal housing project on Tuesday May 31.
A total of 153 houses worth R25 million were built as part of the project. The work started in July 2015.
Fifty-six houses have been handed over in Kewtown, and by the end of August, another 77 houses will be handed over.
Ms Lerm had been on the City’s housing database for 32 years, and when she received a phone call from a City official to say her wait is over, she started praising God.
She was also the beneficiary chosen to speak at the hand-over ceremony, and came dressed in a bright green suit and a minstrel umbrella, dancing on the stage to express her gratitude.
“I am so excited. I’ve waited for 32 years for this opportunity, and I am so grateful to God. Ek wil net juig,” Ms Lerm told the audience.
Later, she told the Athlone News that she deliberately chose to wear that suit, as she felt it matched with the colourful houses, “and I wanted to be different”.
Ms Lerm and her family have been sharing a house in Bokmakierie with her sister, Elsie Japhta, and Ms Japhta’s family.
Ms Lerm said: “There was a time I gave up hope. My daughter lives in the backyard at Elsie’s place, and one day I went to the local housing office to find out about housing for my daughter. That day, I saw my name listed among potential beneficiaries pasted up at the council office. As overjoyed as I am that I finally have my own house, I can’t help but feel sad. My husband, Barend Lerm, and I signed for the house in July 2011, and he died a few months later, in September 2011. I’m sad that he is not here to share in my joy.”
Fowzeyah Israel, 56, has also been on the waiting list for 32 years. Ms Israel has been living in their family home all these years. Her new house could not come at a better time, as the family home must be sold.
Martha Esau has been waiting for 30 years, and said she is relieved that she would not have to look for leaks this winter, like she always had to do when she lived in a wendy house for all these years.
“My 98-year-old mother, Spasie Jacobs, my son and my daughter will be moving in with me. I am happy. I have been living in a backyard in Bokmakierie all this time,” she said.
Ms De Lille said these houses are going to some of “our most vulnerable residents; those on the waiting list, as well as indigent residents and those with special needs”.
Addressing the beneficiaries at the hand over ceremony, Ms De Lille said: “There are many people who fought and died for access to the rights we have today, like the right to shelter. Our country’s history meant a lot of pain and inequality and trying to reverse the wrongs of the past is a complex task, but one we remain committed to. We are working tirelessly on the task of redress and providing services and homes to beneficiaries on a daily basis.
“Today is a joyful day and I can only imagine the overwhelming feelings of relief and happiness you feel at this moment. I share in your joy and I am honoured to be here today and give you the keys to your own home.
“You are going to be living in a central area, close to schools, transport, clinics, churches and mosques and all the places you need to be. Let us all remember how much it took to get to this point and let us accept it with the responsibility that, as new homeowners, you will take the best care of your home, take pride in it and take pride in your neighbourhood.”