Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

It Was Supposed to be Simple

Four of my posts over the previous week explain the creation and purpose of Madulammoho Housing Association.  MHA is trying to service a segment of the population that can afford better than the free (and horrendous) RDP Housing, but still falls below market rentals.  Sounds like a great idea, right?  Sounds like their tenants should be super grateful for clean, affordable, safe housing in the inner city?

Just watch “Gangster’s Paradise Jerusalema” to see what a shit show Hillbrow is (it’s a great movie) and you’ll think that our tenants should love MHA.

Not true.

When I work in the projects, I get bombarded with complaints: the rent is too high, the utilities cost too much, the house manager doesn’t do anything, the kitchen sinks are always plugged, the bathrooms are too dirty, and so forth.

Beyond the complaints, however, are organized protests.

One of our projects has been experiencing a protest for about a year in which a group of tenants refused to pay rent.


It’s complicated, as usual.  I’ve been told by Client Services that they’re protesting because they feel like they shouldn’t have to pay for something unless they own it.  This country has a history of giving away free homes (to make up for taking away houses which families had owned for generations).  As a result,, renting is a somewhat unknown concept among the poor.

Last week we evicted 33 tenants who hadn’t paid rent for over a year.

The scene was heartbreaking.  They set up camp in front of the project, singing and dancing.  They refused to leave.  They called a lawyer.


No one should be kicked out on the street like this.

But what choice did MHA have?


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