How the poor are misled

2013-02-14 12:52

I don't usually read community newspapers due to the overwhelming amount of adverts, but boredom 'forced' me to pick up the free newspaper that is distributed in Khayelitsha, Langa, Gugulethu, Philippi and Nyanga; and the letters section was the only thing worth reading as I enjoy listening to the views of 'concerned' citizens, but that too turned out to be a waste of time as the letter titled “Open letter to the mayor: food security an issue because city works for wealthy” (Thyido, 2013, p.12) had very few facts and a lot of nonsense.

You might be asking yourself how this letter would be of interest to you as the paper it was published on is for certain townships in Cape Town, well, the letter might help you understand why the DA fails to win a single ward in Khayelitsha, Langa, Gugulethu, Philippi and Nyanga even though the DA run City of Cape Town delivers more to the poor. The very few municipal wards it has in townships would be wards that connect townships with areas that have different race groups if you follow racial classification according to the Population Registration Act No.30 of 1950. So the DA would most likely win a ward where the population is predominantly White or Coloured such as the ward in Somerset West that also includes small parts of Khayelitsha, ward 88 in Mitchellsplain which includes certain parts of Philippi, or the Gugulethu ward which includes parts of Heideveld and so on.

This does not mean that the DA does not win wards where the population is predominantly Native as per Act No.30 of 1950, the party has proved that it can but not in Cape Town because when you look at Khayelitsha’s sub-councils, you will not see a DA ward councillor unless he comes from a ward that has a racially diverse population. So why don’t Khayelitsha residents vote for a DA ward councillor? Thyido (2013) might help us get close to understanding why this is the case with his unfounded accusations against the DA governed City of Cape Town.

Thyido (2013) suggests that social security is the responsibility of the municipality, he fails to understand the responsibilities of a municipality in terms of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act No.108 of 1996 which clearly provides for the functions of each sphere of government from local, provincial and national government; particularly section 156 which provides for the powers and functions of municipalities. The right to have access to sufficient food and water is guaranteed on the constitution for everyone, and section 27 (1) (c) gives everyone the right to “social security, including, if they are unable to support themselves and their dependants, appropriate social assistance. Section 27 (2) further states that “the state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of each of these rights”.

The constitution clearly rests the responsibility of ensuring that each family has access to food on national government, not municipalities. Hence national government introduced social grants to comply with section 27 (1) (c) of the constitution. So Thyido (2013) should address the letter to the President of the Republic as the head of state not to the Mayor as social security in South Africa is administered by national government not municipalities. And there is no shortage of food in Cape Town, one only needs money to buy food.

Thyido (2013) also states that the City of Cape Town regards a person as indigent if the person earns no more than R2800.00 per month, this is not true, national government determines this amount for the provision of certain services and the correct amount is R3500.00 for housing and 'free' basic services. So if your household income is R3500.00 or less, you would qualify for various state subsidies such as the housing subsidy, water, sanitation, refuse collection, electricity, and other services.

Then Thyido (2013) says that the DA governed City of Cape Town works for Whites and the rich citing the municipality’s response to the fires that destroyed shacks at BM section and claims that Cape Town has a housing backlog of 500 000 when the actual number is 'around' 310 000. The word 'around' is used as number changes when there are people being taken off the list on receipt of their subsidised house and others being added to the list. No evidence was provided to substantiate these claims so they can be dismissed as rubbish, but how many of the voting residents who read the publication will regard this claim as nothing but rubbish?

The notion that the DA does not care about the poor could not be further from the truth but when this idea is on a publication that is circulated across townships in the DA governed Cape Town, there is a very good chance that people will start to believe this to be true, particularly when the author quotes well known sources such as the Western Cape Provincial Treasury and puts figures forward, the people might not verify such figures and believe them to be facts when they are not. And when you look at Camps Bay and Khayelitsha you might believe that the DA governed City of Cape Town cares more for the rich, but then if this was a fact, how many houses in Camps Bay were built by the state? How many households in Camps Bay get their municipal services for free? And in Khayelitsha?

In the number of years I have worked on low-cost housing projects in Cape Town, I have never seen a White or a rich person getting a ‘free’ house. In fact, people who earn more than R3500 are the ones who must pay for those who earn less to receive the 'free' services. There are currently over 30 housing projects across the City of Cape Town where you will find ‘black’ contractors with ‘black’ labourers building houses for poor black people. So when Thyido (2013) complains about the City of Cape Town’s response to the victims of the fire that rocked BM section on New Year’s Eve, he should note that government is already building houses, and they are not built in one day. The fire victims have no other option but to rebuild their shacks and wait like the rest of the 310 000 who are waiting for their RDP houses. Idealy no government wants to have people living in shacks but no government can build 310 000 houses in one year or 20 years; it takes a lot of time to plan and to build houses as government must first budget for the purchase and/or servicing of land, then for the actual construction of the houses. So Thyido (2013) must look at what resources are available to the state, and how the state is making use of those resources; then he can make an informed claim and publish it, and not just making claims with no evidence to supoort them.

Even more disturbing is his assertion that a commission of inquiry into the Khayelitsha SAPS should not be prioritised, that people having access to food is more important. Perhaps he should tell this to Nomzi who was gang-raped on her way to work so that she can support her family. Or the young girl who was found dead on Aliam Drive in Site B where Thyido (2013) lives.

Thyido (2013) should know that when the DA took control of the Cape Town Metro, there were over 200 informal settlements without basic services, many used the bucket system, and the previous council had only spent 60% of its budget; mostly on salaries benefits, gala dinners and other useless events. Thyido (2013) as a Site B resident, would remember the many ‘free’ T-shirts the council used to hand-out on every ‘important’ public holiday, about R400 million was used for ‘free’ basic services, now the City of Cape Town is currently spending 57% of its budget that is aimed at direct service delivery on the poor; R10.8 billion out of the R18 billion to be spent on targeted expenditure in previously disadvantaged areas, the provision of free basic services, the provision of services and infrastructure in all informal settlements and formal poor areas (Pallock, 2012).

If the DA run City of Cape Town spends more on the poor, how then does Thyido (2013) justify his claim that “the City of Cape Town works for Whites and the rich” (Thyido, 2013, p.12). Is it not the people who pay their municipal bills that fund the ‘free’ basic services? Thyido (2013) would do well to remember this and do more research before making unfounded accusations. Although the DA does not take such letters seriously, they certainly contribute to how voters formulate an opinion on governing parties so it is very important to address such as they affect the party’s reputation amongst poor communities where the DA needs more votes. A while back a young man on CTV claimed that Helen Zille wanted all black people in Cape Town to be sent back to the Eastern Cape, this was on a youth programme, now ask yourself where the young man got that idea.

Reference list

Pallock, M. (2012). City outlines its targeted pro-poor spending. Retrieved 13 February, 2013, from http://www.capetown.gov.za/en/Pages/Cityoutlinesitstargetedpropoorspending.aspx

Thyido, N,L. (2013,January 31). Open letter to the mayor: food security an issue because city works for wealthy. City Vision, p.12

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