SA Government Meets Over Housing Challenges

Pretoria - Challenges around housing delivery and building sustainable human settlements dominated a special forum on Tuesday with President Jacob Zuma, premiers and MECs.

The President told the gathering, of which included several cabinet ministers and the leadership of South African Local Government Association, that the focus on human settlements is a key national priority and has to undo the apartheid legacy.

According to Zuma, the concept of human settlements should not only be just about building houses, but restoring human dignity as well. He said investment in human settlements was an investment in the future.

"Habitable and decent settlements promote human dignity and the stability of our communities."

Zuma, who also paid a surprised visit to Sweetwaters, south of Johannesburg on Monday, said he was shocked at what he found.

He said "there was nothing sweet about Sweetwaters", which has been a home to many in the last 40 years, as there were no proper sanitation facilities and electricity.

The President said government should prioritise places like Sweetwaters, adding that he wanted answers from both the provincial and national governments.

He said situations like that of Sweetwaters prove that government should change the way it has been operating for the past 15 years.

Zuma said government needs to be quicker, smarter, use money wisely and prioritise on services that would better the lives of the ordinary citizens.

About 220 000 housing units had been built by government in the last financial year.

Nevertheless, the housing backlog is about 2.1-million units, which accounted for about 12-million South Africans that were still in need of better shelter.

Informal settlements have ballooned to over 2 700, while the number of houses that needed electricity stood at three million.

Zuma said the backlog does not seem to decrease since there is an increasing number of informal settlements mushrooming every where. He noted that some people, who received houses, rented them out and returned to the informal settlements.

"We therefore end up chasing a moving target," said Zuma, adding that communities needed to play their part by using the services provided by government responsible.

The forum would examine the human settlements delivery agreement and discuss solutions to problems that affect delivery.

Zuma said government would then put in place programmes that would restore the dignity of the people.

"All the programmes we are putting in place must ensure that working with the people, we undo this legacy [apartheid] and restore their dignity, self-esteem and pride." - BuaNews