BY HON. MEC RAVI PILLAY
Debate by: M. Joshua Mazibuko; IFP MPL
KwaZulu-Natal Legislature; Pietermaritzburg
Hon. Speaker and Hon. Members.
In his Budget Speech on Tuesday this week, the Premier Hon. WT Mchunu said: “April still signifies an important epoch in our history. It is a month in which we witnessed the first democratic elections in 1994 – which gave birth to our constitutional democracy.
“It marked the turning point as it saw the previously disadvantaged communities become part of the South African political process. South Africa became a country that belonged to all who lived in it.”
What an accurate portrayal of the history of our development as a country. Hence I wish to add that 1994 resuscitated the hopes long held by the then oppressed South Africans that finally they would realize the noble vision of better and improved lives.
SLUMS ARE PERSISTENT
However, 23 years later, realities unfortunately tell us that these aspirations are yet to be realized, if at all. Yes, compared to the pre-1994 period, many more South Africans have had access to decent houses. But still, whenever one moves around in KwaZulu-Natal one’s eyes get attracted to informal settlements and slums as well as tin-towns which have housed our people for years. In most cases, when the people are housed in these tin-houses, they are promised a quick transit to decent houses. But those promises end up as nothing more than empty words.
You must drive through Isipingo or along the N2 and N3 to know what I am talking about. Some among these people have spent close to a decade waiting for a day when they would sleep inside a decent house. In addition, other multitudes are living in houses that are almost falling apart and failing to withstand natural elements such as an inclement weather.
Hon. Speaker; these are the conditions which inform community protests which have become the order of the day. Some of these protests have turned into violent confrontations. This we reject in toto!
Again Hon. Speaker these are the conditions which feed into the illegal land-invasion and house-invasion frenzy which threatens order and stability in the Province.
In our Portfolio Committee report we refer to the unfortunate attempted illegal land invasion at Puntan’s Hill and Canelands. Within this context Hon. Speaker we wish to register our disquiet with the position taken by eThekwini Municipality on the matter of invasion of houses at Illovo by former soldiers of Umkhonto.
For the record, former MK members are humans and citizens of South Africa. Like all South Africans, they should have access to government services. In our view, their resolution to invade and take over houses at Illovo was informed by the frustration they have which emanated from government failure to fulfill undertakings made. By so saying, we are not condoning their invasion of houses.
Instead, we have a serious problem with eThekwini Municipality which succumbed to this pressure by validating the invasion of houses. By succumbing to the pressure, eThekwini Municipality created a very bad precedent. This may lead to other people taking a leaf out of that invasion. In addition, this might encourage those who promote illegal invasions of land.
PARTNERSHIP AGAINST CORRUPTION
This bleak picture is compounded by the demon of fraud and corruption which has entrenched itself in the South African make-up and has contributed to the government’s inability to deal decisively with lack of decent housing. Some of these corrupt individuals or syndicates get away with their wickedness and thus continue to brazenly loot the public purse.
Hon. Speaker; in my Budget debate last year, I applauded the partnership that the Department had entered into with the University of KwaZulu-Natal to collaborate in the fight against corruption. I believe it is proper that we should hear from the MEC about progress in that endeavor; whether or not the partnership is yielding desired results.
SLUM CLEARANCE UNFATHOMABLE DREAM
Hon. Speaker; our Portfolio Report also refers to the Department’s “daunting task of providing ‘’decent housing, demolition of slums and the building of new suburbs where there are roads, transport, playing fields, creches and social centres…” The IFP sympathize with the MEC and his Department for shouldering a responsibility that is a pipedream
Mandate Presupposes MEC ability to Deploy other Departments
This mandate is unfair to the MEC for it presupposes that MEC Pillay has a magic wand to order his Cabinet colleagues to toe the line once he has identified a housing project so that by the time house-building is complete, all these other basic needs will be available. It is only the Premier who can issue such an order.
Economic Situation is bad
Secondly, however much the MEC can dedicate himself to his mandate, the sluggish economic situation is such that this will not be achieved. Unless government engages in a radical economic growth which generates more employment and also creates more entrepreneurs, slums and informal settlements will always be with us. Secondly unless government engages in a radical eradication of crooks who loot public funds, this will remain a dream.
HOSTELS STILL REMINDERS OF PAINFUL PAST
Hon. Speaker one other thorn on the side of democratic South Africa is the question of hostels. These places of residence still resemble filthy ghettos which colonial and apartheid regimes had put up with a view to dehumanize the indigenous Africans as nothing but “hewers of wood and drawers of water.” No human being must be allowed to live in such dehumanizing conditions 23 years into our democracy.
We would like to hear of and see government’s accelerated program to radically turn these areas into humanly habitable units where men and women can live in dignity with their loved ones for we just cannot perpetuate the legacy of our oppressors whose mission was to totally dismantle African family structures by deliberately dividing and separating families.
RADICAL REVITALIZATION OF RURAL ECONOMY
The paramount key to the solution of this problem lies in the government committing itself to a consistent, aggressive and radical agenda to turn rural areas into industrial, economic and financial hubs where our people can see opportunities for economic empowerment.
As long as rural areas remain poor and underdeveloped – without tarred roads, without any sound transport system, properly-equipped clinics and hospitals; without water, sanitation and electricity; without any chance of attracting industries and companies – we will never be able to stop our people from flocking to the cities and towns to look for opportunities of a better life.
GOVERNMENT UNABLE TO SHOULDER HOUSE DELIVERY
Hon. Speaker it is fact which even some ANC leaders have acknowledged that the government cannot singlehandedly shoulder the responsibility of providing citizens with houses, forever. It is just impossible. The Socio-Economic Review and Outlook 2017/2018 tabled by the Treasury states that in KwaZulu-Natal currently “an estimated 34.8 percent of the population are children between 00 and 14 years and about 36.7 percent are the youth that are economically active (15-34). Collectively, children and young people account for an estimated 71.5 per cent of the total provincial population. The total provincial dependent population is estimated at 4 374 507, while the economically active population is estimated at 6 705 213. The implication of these estimates is a high dependency ratio of 65.2 per cent. A high dependency ratio burdens the working age population as it bears the greater responsibility of paying for public services.” (p.7)
This is a reality which says to us, unless government pays more and sustained attention to economic growth so that citizens are able to build their own houses, we have a disaster waiting to happen. While government works tirelessly to create an environment which enables economic growth, it must heed IFP’s advice encapsulated in our policy, that of “assisting people to house themselves, by empowering communities to make informed decisions regarding the prioritization of housing needs…
“(Indeed) the IFP recognizes that the state has insufficient financial resources to meet the needs of the homeless on its own, and therefore promotes a housing assistance scheme whereby impoverished households receive substantial contributions from the state towards the cost of building their own homes. Households should accept their subsidy as a contribution to building a home, and supplement this grant with their own savings and sweat equity. In this way a far greater number of impoverished people can benefit from state assistance, rather than the state limiting its assistance to a privileged few.” (IFP Policy on Housing)
SHARKS WHO PREY ON POOR
Hon Speaker one other matter that the Department, through its Rent Tribunals, needs to pay attention to is that of the poor and destitute who end up falling prey to powerful and rich sharks who turn them into their economic vassals. Some of these criminals build a lot of rooms in informal settlements or take over old dilapidated buildings and rent these out to the needy. And they charge exorbitant rents.
In conclusion, may I on behalf of the IFP also congratulate the Department for winning the Best Provincial Department in Performance delivery Award at the 2016 Annual Govan Mbeki Awards Ceremony. This is evidence of their dedication to the course.
Lastly, the IFP supports the budget; in the hope that every cent will benefit the deserving communities.