1 019 houses built a day

2012-01-28 18:14

Rachel Ledwaba used to rent a shack in Alexandra township, north of Johannesburg, 13 years ago.

The 63-year-old grandmother of two now owns a two-bedroom flat the government gave her for free in the same township.

Although Ledwaba had been hoping for a stand-alone house, she is happy that she now has a proper shelter with running water and electricity.

Her corrugated iron shack had none of those services.

“I am glad that I no longer have to live in a shack,” she says.

Her major worry these days is whether she will qualify for the Two Oceans marathon when she finishes a 42km race today.

It is people like her who have benefited from the major roll-out of services such as housing, electricity and piped water that the state has been rolling out since 1996.

Statistics from the SA Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) show that between 1996 and 2010, on average 1 019 formal housing units were built per day, compared with an average of 79 shacks per day in the same period.

SAIRR deputy CEO Frans Cronjé said while some of the houses were built by the private sector, the bulk of them were built by government.

He said the increase in the number of houses far outstripped the population growth, and said there were signs that a lot of the private housing units went to the black middle class.

“The government might have done a lot better in terms of improving living standards than we give them credit for,” Cronjé said.

The number of households with flushing or chemical toilets increased by almost 90% to 8.6 million.
Households with taps in their sites went up 179% to 4.1 million.

The United Nations Development Programme’s 2011 Human Development Report says improving access to sanitation and clean drinking water “can be a key driver in poverty reduction” in developing countries.

Cronjé said the improvement in the quality of life was largely driven by the government’s welfare policies, in contrast to the same trend in countries such as China and Brazil, where education and employment were major contributors to a better life.

But lately the country has seen a sharp increase in service delivery protests in urban areas, fuelling speculation that this is a reaction to the government’s failure to deliver on electoral promises.

“Service delivery protests are in part a result of the success of service delivery. The fact that we see so much protest is an indication that some communities are impatient.

“We can even go a degree further and say as you improve living conditions, so aspirations improve. The dissatisfaction we see isn’t a reflection of failure of service delivery,” Cronjé said.

However, University of Free State Professor Kwandiwe Kondlo questioned the validity of the data, saying extensive academic research had proved otherwise. He said the conclusion the institute drew from the figures was a bit premature.

“If the post-1994 (service delivery) record is so prominent, why have we seen this escalation (in protests)?”
he asked.

Kondlo said delivery success could not be gleaned from the figures alone as they did not tell the whole story.

He said service delivery was more than a numbers game as it included the quality of the services and the needs of the recipients of such services.

“The post-1994 administration has really scratched the surface,” he said.

Similarly, Human Sciences Research Council service delivery expert Professor Hendrick Kanyane said the statistics alone could not be relied upon as service delivery was about more than just infrastructure.

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