Homes everywhere but not to live in.

Author:Kasumuni, Ludger
Position:Houses for the poor in Lesotho

To the thousands of Basotho who live rough on the streets or in tiny shacks they call home, the Thetsane Planned Housing Estate at Maseru is something of a sick joke.

Thetsane Housing Estate created as one solution to Maseru's homeless crisis is a ghost town, studded with partially built homes and empty plots.

There are thousands who would gladly live there, but, even though Thetsane is a Government subsidised housing scheme, most of Lesotho's homeless just cannot afford to buy the plots on which to build their homes. Thetsane, backed by the Development Bank of South Africa and the Government of Lesotho, was provided with roads, water pipes, storm-water drainage, a marketing centre, electricity, sanitation and sewerage systems at a cost of R8,535m ($2.8m). The area is divided up into 5,000 plots. There are three categories of plots with prices to match.

Prices range from R1,500 ($417) to 3,000 ($833) for the cheapest category to between R13,000 ($3,611) to R26,000 ($7,222) for the best quality plots earmarked for the well-off. The idea was to benefit both the rich and poor.

The trouble is that even the cheapest plots are too expensive for those who need the housing the most. Mr Liabo Thaele, 30, lives in Matala suburb of Maseru city where he owns a small house with only two rooms. "I spent R7,000 ($1944) on building my house out of burnt bricks. I have neither electricity nor modern pit latrine, and although I own a water pipe, there are frequent water cuts", he says. A bus driver, he would love to take one of the many surveyed plots in Thetsane. "But the are simply too expensive. I badly need a decent home, but I haven't a chance."

Mr Matlaselo Moremoholo sympathises. He has been looking for a good plot to buy at Thetsane, but each year the prices rise, keeping his dream home just out of reach. "Last year I saved about R15,000 ($4167) to buy a plot and build a modern house, but life is so expensive," Mr Moremoholo says. "I was forced to spend all my money on buying food and paying school fees for my child who is studying at Rousouw Secondary school in South Africa."

Mr Moremoholo, an office attendant in the city council, has one daughter and three sons to care for and is hardly in a position to spend the large sums of money...

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