We can’t have a free for all – Lindiwe Sisulu

2014-10-28 16:00

Apartheid did not steal the youth of South Africans under 40, Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said today as she defended her department’s age criteria for qualifying for free public housing.

“What apartheid could never take from anybody is their age. They are young, they are energetic, they are able to do,” Sisulu said on the sidelines of a briefing to Parliament’s human settlements portfolio committee on her first 100 days in her portfolio.

The minister was accused by the Economic Freedom Fighters last week of misleading voters and creating a generation of “hobos” after she told journalists in Durban nobody under 40 would get a free house from the state.

She said she had referred to the age of 40 on that occasion because everybody present was younger, but it was established state policy that the minimum qualifying age was 60.

Asked when the policy was introduced, her office referred to a recent press release issued by Sisulu in which she stated that the decision to make 60 the qualifying age dated to 2009 – towards the end of her first term as housing minister.

The minister and all provincial human settlements MECs “resolved in 2009 that priority must be given to the elderly”, the statement said, and to that end the criteria were changed to prioritise those above 60, military veterans and people with disabilities.

“The housing database or waiting list is also being audited and adjusted to prioritise possible beneficiaries by age, starting with the elderly and those with special needs,” the minister’s statement added.

Sisulu told Sapa there was a basic, universal understanding that the poor and elderly would be first in line for state benefits.

“If I should ever be able to say there is no 80-year-old without a house, I would have achieved something.

“If I can say there is nobody above 60 without a house, I will celebrate, I might even get to the 40-year-olds but right now our indigency policy does not accommodate any of you.

“Our policy speaks to 60, because that is the qualifying criteria worked out in our policy. Anything that is free ... there must be a cut-off point otherwise it will be a free for all. So in human settlements that is the criteria we use.”

She added: “What people under the age of 40 have is an enormous ability to do things themselves. That which the older people can’t do.

“They have sweat equity, which is one of the programmes that we have. They can go into rental if they can get a job. We are creating a youth brigade so they will get a job.”

Government did not want to create a young generation dependent on state benefits.

“We want our young to grow up and be self-sufficient, we don’t want them to be dependent on the state. The state has only so much that it can cater for.”

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