The first Hlasela house in Makotoko, Batho is a showpiece for future housing programmes in the Free State. The 60 square-metre houses have an equity value of R300 000, a first for government housing schemes.
Life for residents in the Batho township changed irrevocably in 2010 when Free State Premier Ace Magashule ordered dilapidated houses in the Makotoko informal settlement to be razed to the ground.
In their place, new 60m² houses rose to the surprise of most residents in the area who refused to have their old houses replaced with standard RDP houses.
The Hlasela social upliftment houses not only have a modern appearance, but also have ceilings, water and electricity, and a separate bathroom and three bedrooms for each unit.
Compared to standard RDP houses, Hlasela houses are a mammoth improvement, according to the director-general in the department of the premier, Elzabe Rockman.
Batho, Bloemfontein's oldest township and also the area in which the ANC was established in 1912, was soon to be revamped with new Hlasela houses, tarred and block paved roads as well as solar street lights.
This week, Batho was still abuzz with construction workers upgrading the infrastructure, revamping the Batho clinic and nearby community hall, as well as finishing Hlasela houses as part of phase one of the government's programme.
One of the first recipients of a Hlasela house, Sgt Sechaba Moshoeu, a logistics officer in the SANDF in Tempe, told The New Age he had resided with his wife in Makotoko since 1997.
They lived in a shack before the couple received their house in September last year. Unfortunately his wife had since died, with Moshoeu now raising their eight-year-old son, Maxwell.
"Soldiers do not earn big salaries. However, this house changed my life forever. I plan to lay paving and finish the three-roomed brick house in the backyard. The two structures will then be combined with a corridor," he said.
Moshoeu said his house was a symbol of the Freedom Charter and political achievement. "The premier has done well, because things are changing in the area for good," he said.
At the Magasu Hall nearby, project manager Jan Huyzers explained "massification", a term linked to Magashule's initiative to train unskilled workers and create jobs for local contractors while upgrading the townships.
Huyzers said his company had been busy with various training programmes for local unskilled workers in the area. "Our team leader, Sam Melamo, manages the workers. This hall was in a terrible condition. Look at the new structure now," he said.
Gertie Mabusela, 51, the owner of the first Hlasela house in Makotoko, said she suffered for 20 years while staying in tents and corrugated iron structures. She now shares her houses with her two daughters and their small children.
"I refused to have an RDP house because those houses do not have bathrooms, ceilings, water or electricity. I cannot express my gratitude enough. Ace is the first premier to improve our neighbourhood. I can now visit friends safely at night because of the street lights," she said.
Elderly couple, Gilbert, 73, and Minah Dibe, 72, summed up the gratitude of the residents when they said: "We are so thankful to the premier because we will never feel the cold again." Former councillor of Ward 19 and recently elected Mangaung metro councillor, Thabo Olivier, said on Wednesday the revamped area was a team effort.
He moved into a shack in Makotoko in 2010 during the World Cup in an effort to communicate the pleas of his community to the outside world. "I am so proud. This is an example of what can be achieved through a team effort," he said.
Rockman said Operation Hlasela was an implementation of methodology ensuring the government worked faster, better and differently.
"It focuses on all resources – national, provincial and local as well as the private sector. The example of Batho is rolled out across the province by all departments and is a track record of our success." – 701198