[DEBATE] : (Fwd) CT class apartheid
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Sat Nov 3 17:20:04 GMT 2007
SOUTH AFRICA: Government housing project excludes poorest of the poor
CAPE TOWN, 1 November 2007 (IRIN) - Thousands of the poorest residents
in Cape Town, South Africa, are facing eviction from an informal
settlement to make way for a government housing project.
About 20,000 residents of the Joe Slovo informal settlement near Langa,
a township about 15km from Cape Town along the N2, the main access road
to and from the airport, are opposing their forced removal to Delft,
about 20km northeast of the city, because they say it would reduce their
standard of living further and make it difficult and more expensive to
travel to the city for work.
The multimillion-dollar N2 Gateway housing project, situated adjacent to
the highway, will change the first impression hundreds of thousands of
international visitors have of the city - which reaps hundreds of
millions of dollars from tourism - as they will travel past a formal
housing estate rather than a squatter camp on their way to the city.
Attempts to evict Joe Slovo residents met with violence in September
2006 and housing minister Lindiwe Sisulu then took recourse through the
courts, seeking sanction to remove the residents to allow the project to
be completed. Cape Town's High Court is to rule on the issue next month.
In the wake of the clashes between Joe Slovo residents and police, the
housing department issued a statement saying temporary relocation was
necessary so the area could be redeveloped before the residents were
However, the co-ordinator of Joe Slovo's anti-eviction task team,
Mzwanele Zulu, told IRIN the Joe Slovo residents were feeling betrayed
by the government, which had not kept its promise to provide affordable
housing for the squatters.
He said in 2005 some Joe Slovo residents agreed to move to Delft after
fires had destroyed their shacks, on condition that they would return to
Langa and be accommodated in formal housing once the first phase of the
project had been completed.
A blueprint for slum eradication
However, this agreement was not fulfilled and, consequently, the
remaining residents were unwilling to leave their homes to make way for
phases two and three of the project, Zulu said.
"In May of last year we were all told we had to move to Delft because
the government was going to build us affordable houses where our shacks
were. But these new houses will be bonded and rented houses and people
must earn between R3,500 (US$500) and R7,000 (US$1,000) per month to
qualify to get a home.
Photo: Bill Corcoran/IRIN
Government's temporary housing in Delft
"Most people who live in Joe Slovo earn less than R1,500 (US$214) per
month, so they are automatically excluded: they are evicting the poorest
people in society as part of their plans to eradicate informal
settlements and waiting lists [for low-cost housing]," he said.
South Africa has a housing shortfall of about 2.2m dwellings and, like
most of South Africa's major cities, Cape Town's informal settlement
population continues to expand as people are drawn from poor rural areas
to the cities in the hope of employment.
According to Cape Town's latest estimates, more than 400,000 units are
needed to eradicate slum dwellings in the metropolis, and that number is
expected to grow by about 16,000 annually.
The latest statistics from the Department of Housing's 2007 Community
Survey reveal that 14 percent of the Western Cape Province's population
are still living in informal settlements.
The N2 Gateway project was launched by the housing minister in 2005 to
reduce Cape Town's housing backlog, as part of a combined national,
provincial and local government effort in response to the housing crisis.
It was touted as a blueprint for slum eradication that could be rolled
out across the country. "We intend to get this right, and signal
government's commitment to provide shelter to the homeless in as short a
timeframe as possible," the minister said.
But within a year, the project, managed by the state-owned company
Thubelisha Homes, was beset with problems ranging from
inter-governmental infighting and cost overruns to a lack of
consultation with residents and strikes by construction workers.
In 2006 the Cape Town mayor, Helen Zille, who is also the leader of
South Africa's main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA),
expressed grave concerns about the project, saying it was flawed and had
become "a poisoned chalice".
Following the mayor's public criticism, the national housing department
ejected the city council from its role as one of the project's three
partners for voicing its concerns outside of official channels.
The allocation of housing in the project was then transferred to the
Western Cape provincial government, which is controlled by the ruling
African National Congress (ANC) party, rather than the city council,
which is controlled by the DA.
Poor sidelined by property prices
Zille told IRIN in an interview that her original assessment of the
project being "bad policy" was unchanged, because it was pushed through
ahead of the 2005 local government elections. The Western Cape Province
has been hotly contested since South Africa achieved democracy in 1994,
and the reins of local government have see-sawed between the ANC and DA.
'' The reason things went wrong on the project is that it was initiated
too hastily, without proper building plans or financial modelling''
"The reason things went so wrong on the project is that it was initiated
too hastily, without proper building plans or financial modelling. It
was built using existing housing subsidies for Reconstruction and
Development (RDP) houses [a now defunct programme launched soon after
the ANC came into power], which at the time were about R40,000 per unit.
"But the multi-storey flats at Joe Slovo cost over twice that. In other
words, they did not factor in the greater construction cost of
high-density housing when budgeting for the project. As a result, the
funds dried up, and the project incurred cost overruns that could not be
"The [construction] companies wanted to sue the state, but it was found
that they had not signed contracts with the city or anyone else. In the
end a deal was made to rescue them from bankruptcy, but it brought the
project to a halt," Zille told IRIN.
Zille said huge expectations had been created among poor communities
after the government announced that 22,000 housing units would available
for the slum dwellers, but to date only about 2,000 have been delivered,
despite the project being scheduled for completion in 2006.
'' The land occupied by some of the city's informal settlements has
become extremely valuable in recent times and, rather than make it
available to the country's poorest residents, politicians and the
private sector want to cash in on its potential ''
"The pick of these [houses] were promised to the Joe Slovo community,
especially to the victims of the fire there a few years back [which
destroyed about 5,000 shacks]. So the project is now being met with
massive opposition from the people who had been promised homes," she said.
Members of the Joe Slovo anti-eviction task team believe the real reason
behind the government's about-turn on providing the poor with affordable
housing is the booming propertry market.
Cape Town's property prices are among the highest in the country because
the city is an international tourist destination, which has resulted in
an influx of foreign investors paying high prices for housing, often
well beyond what most South Africans can afford.
The latest 2007 First National Bank Residential Property Barometer
revealed that Cape Town housing costing less than R600,000 (US$85,700),
has experienced the highest property growth rate in past year, when
compared with other major cities like Pretoria, Johannesburg and Durban.
The land occupied by some of the city's informal settlements has become
extremely valuable in recent times and, rather than make it available to
the country's poorest residents, politicians and the private sector want
to cash in on its potential, said anti-eviction task team co-ordinator Zulu.
"The bonded houses in the N2 Gateway project will cost between R150,000
(US$21,500) and R250,000 (US$35,700) and private sector banks will make
loans available to people who can afford the repayments - which is not
the residents of Joe Slovo."
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