Irish to build houses for Cape shack dwellers

A construction blitz by a team of Irish volunteer builders plans to put up 50 houses in a week in a township in Cape Town later this month, the charity involved said on Thursday.

Millionaire property developer Niall Mellon, who set up his Township Trust in 2002, will head an operation that will take 350 builders to the Mfuleni township.

The trust is working in three Cape Town townships: Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay, Netreg close to the airport and Mfuleni on the outskirts of the city.

The trust began its building blitzes in 2003 and by the end of this year will have built more than 850 quality homes for shack-dwellers.

On Thursday, Mellon called for 1000 volunteers to join him next year with the aim of building at least 150 quality houses to take more than 1000 people out of shacks and into a proper home for the first time.

Each builder volunteer has to raise at least R35 000 to make the trip.

Approximately half of this goes towards flights and accommodation, with the rest going directly to the charity.

Mellon pays all of the administration costs.

Mellon launched his appeal at the Ideal Homes Exhibition in Dublin where people can see the township shack conditions.

A shack has been re-constructed alongside display stands with plush fittings for homes financed by the new prosperity of Ireland's Celtic Tiger economy.

"Millions of South Africans who live in shacks dream of one day having an 'ideal home'. If you join me next year, we will make this dream come true for hundreds of poor South Africans living in shanty towns," Mellon said.

"The South African government has made massive strides in terms of housing its people, building more than 1,8 million homes since the fall of apartheid in 1994.

"While this is an astonishing achievement, there is still much more to do and I want the people of Ireland to support the South African government's tremendous effort to eradicate all shacks by 2014."

The trust has received wide support in Ireland. Alongside Mellon to launch his appeal were Ireland rugby union stars Denis Hickey and Shane Horgan, Development Minister Conor Lenihan and the South African ambassador Priscilla Jana.

The trust is also backed by former South African president Nelson Mandela, plus pop groups U2 and The Corrs.

Rocker and Dublin-born Live Aid campaigner Bob Geldof visited a township project earlier this year.

Mellon put up a million euros to set up his charity in 2002 after seeing the hardship of township conditions at first hand.

The tycoon is amongst those who have grown rich as a result of Ireland's building boom. - Sapa-AFP

Article by: Andrew Bushe - www.iol.co.za