2015-06-29 09:35

The Freedom Charter adopted by our people in Kliptown 1955 declared for all our country and the world to know that “all people shall have the right to live where they choose, to be decently housed, and to bring up their families in comfort and security”. Today it is 2015 and we are celebrating 60 years of the adoption of the Freedom more bitter than happy.

Despite the democratic government of the ANC building millions of houses for the poor, a success that is the best housing project story in the continent; the legacy of apartheid continues to raise its ugly head to reverse the gains made by the people’s government.

What is devastating is the fact that (1) a family can be given a house but other basic needs of the house like furniture and a job to self-sustain living in such a house are not delivered (2) due to the shortfall that I’ve mentioned in point one, our people end up selling their RDP houses just to earn money to make a living and go back to their slums – others sell it for as little as R10 000 to foreign nationals (3) the RDP houses are far away from central places of economic activity thus making them become a burden for a new need of transport (4) the houses are not of a substantial size and standard to accommodate extended African families; another result of apartheid legacy (5) the institutionalized and systematic corruption of the system by political officials and private businesses for personal gain whereby unfinished constructions of such houses are somehow approved like a house being given to a citizen without windows and electricity. All these are in no way a display of “a people having the right to live where it chooses, to be decently housed, and to bring up its families in comfort and security”.

The spatial geography of apartheid whereby our people’s houses were built to be far away from the economy to the extent that they must catch 3 taxis just to reach town is a disgusting deed that a democratic government should not be repeating. All new RDP houses should be built near city centres whilst the economy is being revived in the townships through the building and placement of industry and small businesses in such areas. Land in city centres that has been previously unoccupied should be expropriated for the public purpose of providing housing. Land that is occupied must be audited of its proven need and be benchmarked against the people’s will of a housing that is secure and comfortable.

Government must roll out its Expanded Public Works Programme extensively to include the building of RDP houses so that the state can have internal capacity to build these houses without depending purely on procurement. Furthermore, working together with SETA’s, the government must provide a vigorous training program of the youth focusing on bricklaying, electricity, carpentry etc to boost further its capacity. This will ensure that government gets good value for its money in the sense that it is able to provide a professional, regulated, transparent, efficient and cost effective project whilst simultaneously paying attention to issues of economic transformation.

The recent launch of the Youth Brigade programmes by the Department of Human Settlements, the Presidency and Department of Small Business speaks unto this issue but it needs to be implemented with the necessary speed. The objective of it is to galvanise more than 10 000 young people in the construction sector and to provide them with skills and also capacitate them into running their small businesses. The idea is to absorb the young people on mega projects across the country.

Over 8 million South Africans are unemployed and this problem will continue being another unfortunate overhead in the delivery of houses to people. When a person does not have a job it means they cannot afford to switch on lights in the house and buy paraffin and a heater to make it warm in winter. It also means they cannot be able to buy food, furniture, toiletries, a television and bedding. This renders the whole project of providing housing useless and people begin to sell these houses for R10 000 to foreign nationals, go back to their slums and survive. Jobs must be available for people to work and build their livelihoods.

Corruption by private business and government officials is a painful reality that affects poor people severely and it seems not to be receiving the serious attention it deserves. Big lucrative tenders of billions of rands are issued out annually to companies to provide this basic need so desperately needed by people. Instead they milk out state funds ruthlessly without shame & empathy and enrich themselves greatly in the face of an army of informal settlements and homeless families. These actions are done by leaders who were part of the gathering that adopted the Freedom Charter and is now tasked to implement it entrusted by people to serve them. Houses are given to people by a democratic government without windows, toilets and a roof despite tenders worth billions are issued to no reception of accountability.

In the Nelson Mandela Metro people get an RDP house quickly by paying a bribe to offices of power. Others are told that they are in a “waiting list” when they see that they are not getting their houses – 15 years after having applied for them. This “waiting list” myth even creates enemies amongst our people themselves, dividing their working-class mass power when they begin to see those that only applied last year getting a house thus fuelling an impression of having those who “jump the queue”. It even escalates to the level of violent service delivery protests that get met with police brutality. It is simply scandalous that people are subjected to all this sort of behaviour from those they trusted into power.

Government must have an independent monitoring and evaluation arm of the state that will do follow ups to all budget audits and sites of delivery before and after the delivery of a service. Strict measures and the full might of the law must take its course without fear or favour to all perpetrators who seek to undermine the work of government to its people. Officials in the Human Settlements department must be trained academically, technically, ethically and politically to distribute houses fairly and justly to people, to give them the quality of houses that they deserve. Houses must be provided with the purpose to create integrated communities with schools, parks, offices and play grounds.

A peoples government fully committed in implementing an urgent national democratic revolution cannot subject people to the humiliation of having to pay bribes to get everything done. We must restore human dignity and ensure daily that “all people shall have the right to live where they choose, to be decently housed, and to bring up their families in comfort and security“. That’s what a caring government does.

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