Powerful partnerships

2013-10-15 00:00

WHILE urbanisation has many benefits for a country’s population, it increases the burden on the government to provide key social services, such as adequate housing and shelter, running water and sanitation.

Recent research by the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) shows that the proportion of people living in urban areas increased from 52% in 1990 to 62% in 2012.

According to Stats SA, the number of households living in informal settlements increased from 52,9% in 2002 to 54,5% in 2012, and that Africa’s rate of urbanisation is expected to overtake Asia’s by 2030.

As the province accommodating the biggest and fastest-growing population in the country, Gauteng is particularly affected by urbanisation, with rates sitting at 96%, followed by the Western Cape at 90% and KwaZulu-Natal with a level of urbanisation of 45%, while South Africa’s population grew by 15,5% (almost seven million people) in the same time.

So what does this mean for us?

Although the government built over three million homes between 1994 and June 2011, a backlog of 2,1 million units still exists, leaving many South Africans with few opportunities to live in their own home.

The public private partnership (PPP) framework in South Africa offers a viable solution to these challenges. Defined by South African law, PPP is a contract between a public sector institution or municipality and private party, where the private party assumes substantial financial, technical and operational risk in the design, financing, building and operation of the project.

It should not be considered outsourcing or commercialisation of public function, and nor is it a donation by a private party. UN Habitat explains that the PPP model has been used successfully around the world to create affordable, sustainable housing. According to PPP consultants Levinsohn & Associates, South Africa boasts one of the most developed PPP legal frameworks in the southern Africa region (SADC).

However, it is important to be aware of the difficulties that this form of partnership can present. These include contradictory goals of the various parties involved, public resistance, capacity challenges, financing issues and environmental disputes.

The partnerships typically involve not only a public authority and a private partner which is responsible for the delivery of the project, but also third parties such as lenders, investors or non-profit organisations.

To date, there have been many successful PPP initiatives in South Africa, with particular focus on sectors where critical infrastructure needs to exist, such as health, sanitation and housing.

One such initiative that has been making an impact since 2010 is the partnership between the national Department of Human Settlements, the Mellon Housing Initiative and Standard Bank. This partnership has built over 60 houses across Gauteng and the Western Cape. The work is done in collaboration with Mellon Housing, a non-profit organisation that partners with government to create sustainable human settlements. They bring building experts to the table, who not only ensure that all the work done on the houses meets stringent quality standards, but who also pass on their skills to the members of the community. What makes the project unique is that not only does Standard Bank provide capital for the buildings, but employees volunteer to help build the houses.

For Ntombozuko Mahlombe, the move into her new brick house in Khayelitsha, which she received through the project in 2012, was nothing short of life-changing. As a mother with a young, disabled child, having to share communal ablution facilities was a matter of concern for her.

“Before, my daughter really struggled when we were living in the shack. Now, if she wants to get into the bathroom, the door slides easily open and she can get to the basin,” said Mahlombe.

“I cannot begin to express how I feel about the fact that I have a new house. If you don’t have a place to live, your dignity as a person is affected,” she said.

• Mandisa Mbenenge is a content

co-ordinator at Kaelo Engage, which is a content- creation company.

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