Human Settlements Summit Report Back

Benoni - As the population of Ekurhuleni currently grows at a rate of between 3 and 4 percent yearly, the area has become one of the largest informal settlements in the country.

In Ekurhuleni alone, there are 119 informal settlements, with 162 000 people living in them. This was revealed on Thursday during a two-day Human Settlements Summit, held in Benoni.

Hosted by the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality, the summit is expected to provide all housing stakeholders with an opportunity to actively participate and provide input on the human settlements programme, strategies and implementation plans.

It will also clearly articulate the position and priority placed on human settlements in the City's overall operations, including the high level state of the City's institutional capacity to manage the development of sustainable housing.

Ekurhuleni Mayor Gungubele acknowledged that there is a huge housing backlog with approximately 240 000 residents living in backyards and those who are registered are still on the waiting list.

"In Ekurhuleni, over the past 10 years, we have allocated no more than 2 000 houses for people on the waiting list, while we have provided almost 97 000 residents living in informal settlements with access to housing opportunities.

"In addition, we have not been successful in the provision of housing opportunities for families wanting to rent. In the past 20 years, our rental housing company has delivered only 998 rental opportunities," Mayor Gungubele said.

He said that over the next two days and after, the delegates must ensure that they provide inclusive solutions to human settlements problems.

He also reiterated that the municipal mandate is broader and its plans include measures to improve access affordable and quality housing for all people regardless of their salary bracket.

"Our intention is that once we have mapped out and agreed on the plan, it must be shared with the society at large. This we plan to do through regular engagements and consultation with stakeholders, a process we plan to roll out every fortnight.

"We have ambitious plans for improving our township economies through the revitalization programme as well as the re-industrialization of Ekurhuleni. If you live in Ekurhuleni, you can have a job, transport and an opportunity to have a sustainable livelihood," Mayor Gungubele explained.

Approximately 89 000 houses have been constructed in the municipality with 127 000 stands being serviced.

The municipal Township Regeneration Integrated plans and strategies for the redevelopment of the townships, including Tembisa, Kathorus, Kwatsaduza, Wattville/Actonville and Daveyton/ Etwatwa, have been completed.

Community member Sipho Vanga from Thinasonke area said he was pleased that the municipality acknowledged that disaster, energy, water and sanitation were core service delivery issues. However, he urged the municipality to implement instead of talking.

"It's beautiful what is being said, but can they need to implement what they are saying. I would advise the Department of Huma Settlements and other departments to consider working with the community on the ground," said a concerned Vanga.

Member of the Mayoral Committee, Queen Duba, said that the current review of the municipality sustainable human settlements development plan, allows the department to re-visit its response to the increasing phenomenon of urbanisation evident in the national census of 2011.

"It also gives the department an opportunity to align its strategies with the National Development Plan (NDP) 2013, Provincial and the city's development strategies. As clearly outlined in the President State of the Nation Address of 2013, the NDP remains the overarching plan to which all our plans have to align," said Duba. -