The Eastern Cape has at least 5 463 RDP houses that still have asbestos roofing, despite the Department of Human Settlements having had 26 years to remove it, as all these houses were built prior to 1994.
Despite the known health risks that the asbestos in these structures pose to our communities, including severe respiratory diseases and cancer, the Department of Human Settlements has failed to put a plan in place to address the issue.
Even more concerning is that the risks of exposure increase with time, as the older the material gets, the more likely it is to be damaged, wear down and become friable, releasing the Asbestos fibres into the air.
A capable state would have taken immediate action to safeguard the wellbeing of its residents.
In response to a parliamentary question asked by the DA, MEC for Human Settlements, Nonkqubela Pieters, confirmed the highest number of RDP houses with asbestos roofing were in Sarah Baartman District, with 2 031 units, followed by Nelson Mandela Bay, with 1,649 units.
The Chris Hani District has 762 units with asbestos roofing, the Joe Gqabi District has 452 units, the Amatole District has 203 units, the OR Tambo district has 172 units, Buffalo City Municipality has 142 units, and Alfred Nzo has 45 units.
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MEC Pieters said these figures were submitted by the respective municipalities, and that no audit has been conducted by the Department to determine the true extent of asbestos prevalence in the province.
She said no funding had been set aside to specifically address asbestos roofing, with the approach of the Department being to add these pre-1994 houses with asbestos onto the rectification programme.
MEC Pieters said there is also currently no collaboration between municipalities, the Department of Health or Human Settlements to deal with the health hazard posed by the asbestos roofing.
It is a shocking indictment on the MEC and her Department that the removal of asbestos was never prioritised. There is currently no funding that has been set aside by the Department even this financial year for the removal of asbestos roofing.
I will be writing to the MEC and the Minister of Human Settlements for request that they urgently set aside funding for the eradication of the asbestos in these houses. This funding must be purposely ring-fenced for the removal of these roofs.
I will also write to the chairperson of the portfolio committee on Human Settlements to request that this item be the first issues to be debated when the Legislature resumes next year.
It is simply unacceptable that there is no plan in place to deal with government houses that have asbestos roofing.