But the EFF wants to see more poor black people living in shacks

2015-04-07 13:53

Site C, Khayelitsha

First it was Andile Lili and the rest of the poo warriors throwing poo all over the show in protest for better services from the City of Cape Town, and the Western Cape provincial government. They took issue with the provision of portable toilets for informal settlements that did not meet the requirements for the installation of normal toilets.

Our national sanitation policy does permit all municipalities to do this as long as the right to dignity and privacy is upheld. In the case of violation of such rights, we have courts and other legal forums such as the Human Rights Commission of South Africa which ensure protection and enjoyment of these rights.

The problem with Andile Lili and co is that they do not use the established means of engagements. Why? Because they do not care about the poor, they just use the poor to further their political agenda. If they did care, they would have used our institutions that can compel the executive to respect the rights of the poor.

Similarly, the Economic Freedom Fighters has embarked on their own supposedly pro-poor campaign. They have been calling on landless people to occupy any vacant land and build their homes on it. Does this help the poor?

From my personal experience, and observation, having lived in an informal settlement for over a decade, and worked on low cost housing projects for many years, I tell you it doesn’t; it only makes their living circumstances worse. Why? Because the people lived somewhere before moving to the vacant piece of land in Khayelitsha. And in Cape Town, I struggle to find a person who competes with livestock for their water. And they have one of the many forms of sanitation available ranging from full flush toilets, chemical toilets, portable toilets, and err the nasty bucket toilets.

Moving to the new vacant land has many risks for the poor. The first one is that the land belongs to a legal person who may apply to the court to evict the occupants as it has been done in the past. Remember Lwandle evictions?

The second issue is that even if the landowner does not evict them, the land won’t magically be owned by the occupants, is not serviced, and may not be suitable for human occupation. We have many examples of people who have invaded land in Khayelitsha when that land was not suitable for human occupation. Site C for example where people get flooded every winter because they built shacks on a wetland, and is not suitable for any form of development so no flushing toilets there. Their only options for sanitation are the portable toilets or relieve themselves along the N2 and they do make use of both options.

Same thing at RR section in Khayelitsha, not very far from where the EFF started with their land grabs. The people of RR section also built on a wetland get flooded every winter, cannot get flushing toilets or electricity in that pond so they use chemical toilets or the bush, and illegal electricity connections. And there are many examples of such land grabs in the Cape. You can go to Drift sands nature reserve, you’ll find people who have built shacks on wetlands.

When an informal settlement is established, it gets congested because there is no order thus making it extremely difficult to provide services even if the land is suitable for development. The poor people will have to deal with fire hazards in summer, and floods in winter with no services. Is this how the EFF wants to solve our country’s developmental problems? By creating more problems?

A stone throw away from the land invaded with the help of the EFF, you’ll find TR section. Another informal settlement that has had it’s share of problems. TR Section is one the informal settlements where you will find all the various types of services offered by the City of Cape Town to the poor, including the wide variety of sanitation services.

At TR Section you will find people who live in shacks that have access to electricity, water through stand pipes, portable toilets, bucket toilets, full flush toilets, chemical toilets were also used not so long ago, and people who relieve themselves in the bush just behind the informal settlement.

The biggest part of the services offered by the council is the relocation of some TR section residents to serviced plots in Bardale, Mfuleni where they have access to toilets, water, and electricity with significantly reduced risk of flooding in winter, and fire hazards in summer; and most importantly prospects of housing development. Another group of people from TR section have been relocated to the Nuwe Begin housing project in Blue Downs where they got houses with all the basic services needed.

This is due to the planning, and hard work undertaken by City of Cape Town in partnership with the provincial and national government. The council has over the years dedicated more resource to improving the living standards of the poor in informal settlements across the metro. This was recognised by national government when the Cape Town metro was the first to obtain housing accreditation as the council had demonstrated that it can indeed deliver, managed housing projects better than some provincial administrations, and won numerous awards for some of them.

This has been done with a number of housing projects from Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Langa, Delft, Mitchells Plain, Philippi, Blue Downs, Atlantis, to the award winning Happy Valley housing Project and others. Not only building houses for the poor, but providing services for those still waiting for houses in informal settlements because there are just too many people who need housing assistance, with fewer resources available to meet the demand.

And the statistics suggest that at the current rate of delivery, the council will not be able to meet this demand because more and more poor people are moving to urban areas across the country, and of course more poor babies growing up in shacks also need and qualify for housing assistance when they turn 18.

The City of Cape Town, using statistics from Stats SA, estimates that the housing need will grow to around 830 000 by 2040 and if the council continues to deliver at current rate, it will be around 650 000. To meet current and future housing need, the city says it must deliver around 30 000 housing opportunities every year. And currently, the municipality does not have the resources to do this. Even if the entire provincial budget was given to the City of Cape Town to use for housing, they'd still be unable to meet this demand because there are simply not enough resources available so we must do our best with the little we have. This works when you have a municipality that is able to account for every rand that it spends, not so much for the comrades who steal public money meant for the poor.

This to me suggests that the housing problem requires resources, planning and leadership. And the EFF offers what? Land invasions that make the lives of the poor even worse? This is not surprising considering that not so long ago the EFF’s leader Julius Malema was at the University of the Western Cape telling us that institutions of higher learning need to teach us how to establish and grow businesses, and produce goods locally while he was wearing imported expensive shoes.

Because the EFF, like many other political parties, pretend to care for the poor when in fact they have zero interest in helping the poor. This is because when the poor are out of poverty and no longer need state assistance for their basic needs, who will be available to buy into the EFF’s ‘pro poor’ policies?

So keeping the poor where they are, or even better, make their living circumstances worse works for the EFF, and the Andile Lili’s of this world. The tragedy is when the poor fail to see through this ‘pro poor’ stance. Elections are coming, and we are bound to see more of these actions. The goal is to ensure that there are people without municipal services so that there is a market for the ‘pro poor’ policies.

Expanding informal settlements across the City helps the EFF. It also proves that they have no real solutions to offer when, by some miracle, get into government. If they had any credible offers, they would have used the various formal means of engagements available to make such proposals.

Instead of proposing solutions that comply with our constitution, they undermine our supreme law. The very law that gives them the right to exist as a political organisation. If they do not uphold the constitution in opposition, who would want them in government?

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