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Changing lives one family at a time

How ITHUBA and its CEO are helping to make a difference in SA’s housing problems.

The safety of a roof over our heads is one of the most fundamental human needs. But for many in South Africa, achieving and hanging onto this critical milestone is a massive struggle.

Thousands affected by the recent floods in KwaZulu Natal now face this reality. Among them are the Gwala family, whose home was split into two and their bedrooms swept away, leaving them with little, as their home had to be demolished. Numerous people also lost friends and relatives. The Luyanda family never saw their grandparents alive again and couldn’t recover their grandfather’s body.

But it doesn’t take terrific natural disasters to show how housing shortages are a major source of stress and despair for the country’s people. The Nyaku family from Gauteng have lived in a shack for many years, waiting for their turn to receive housing. The Madonsela family from Mpumalanga inherited their late mother’s home, only to discover vandals destroyed it. And the Shange family have no idea what started the fire that consumed their home, left only with ashes.

These examples are just a few from ITHUBA’s questionnaires. ITHUBA has now embarked on a campaign to provide housing for people in desperate need. It’s a project that stems from ITHUBA Holdings CEO Charmaine Mabuza’s efforts and company vision.

This vision led to a recent roadshow where its staff handed over new homes to families in three provinces. Though over 3 million people in South Africa still need houses, each home makes a big difference for each recipient. South Africa will require effort from all corners, including private companies such as ITHUBA.

Watch the video below to find out more:

Tackling SA’s housing shortage

In the early 1990s, the new dispensation made housing a development priority. Yet it’s been tough to maintain the momentum with corruption, poor planning, and the rapid urbanisation of South Africa’s cities. According to the Centre for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa, the current backlog for new homes sits at 3.7 million, threatening to dwarf the 3 million already constructed.

“The average South African cannot afford a house. The people at the bottom who work hard to give us better lifestyles have no hope of affording or financing their own place. So we started to build homes for our staff at ITHUBA, focusing on those who need it the most,” says Mabuza.

Mabuza visited KZN following the floods in April and saw that ITHUBA could do more for others, as they did for their staff.

“This was our first push to define what we can do from a company perspective. There are many technical difficulties and hurdles. But we’re not going to stand back and do nothing.”

In early December, ITHUBA delivered 15 homes to new owners in Mpumalanga, Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal. It’s not enough to move the needle, but it still makes an enormous difference on a personal level, says Mabuza.

“Even helping a few at a time is a step forward. Doing nothing is a big step backwards.”

A vision to uplift others

ITHUBA is working on expanding its housing project even though philanthropy is not its core business. ITHUBA delivers National Lottery services throughout the country, using new technologies to make the National Lottery more accessible to prospective players. ITHUBA is regulated by the National Lotteries Commission (NLC). The NLC’s mandate is to regulate Lotteries and funding to develop arts, culture, and sports and address the basic everyday needs of people.

“National Lotteries are created because governments cannot make the necessary funds available for certain sectors,” says Mabuza. “Lotteries can fill that gap if they are run responsibly. I wanted to ensure that I built an organisation that is a catalyst, not only from a bottom-line perspective, but also in making a difference. Corporate social investment really matters.”

Since inception in June 2015, ITHUBA has provided bursaries, entrepreneur development programmes, food schemes and numerous other activities outside its work as the national lottery operator.

But few needs are as primary and life-changing as providing homes. As the late musician Sol Hurok said, “The sky’s the limit if you have a roof over your head.” Inadequate housing is one of South Africa’s most significant barriers, with nearly 13% of the country’s people still living in shacks. The KZN floods put a new spotlight on this plight and the struggles of many people longing for the basics of a safe house where families can gather.

Giving a speech during a handover event, Charmaine Mabuza said, “Thina abase ITHUBA, sinizwile, ngaloko, sizzle kulo suku, sini lethele izindlu, lapha nizo hlala khona. As ITHUBA, we have heard your cries, and we are here today on this day to give you houses where you will be staying.”

Nana Shange and family with Mrs Mabuza, CEO ITHUBA Holdings, in the fully furnished home.

An emotional Nana Shange thanking Mrs Mabuza, CEO ITHUBA Holdings.