Category Archives: Tokyo Sexwale

SACSIS: Poverty Wages and Inadequate Housing

Poverty Wages and Inadequate Housing

Last week at Lonmin mines, the ANC saw the consequences of allowing South Africa to remain one of the most unequal countries in the world. The steadfast refusal of the mineworkers to continue their dangerous work without a substantial pay increase, and the consequent massacre of the workers by police are just the start of what is yet to come.

The police killings appear to have sparked a level of outrage amongst the Black poor and working class that could prove to be a tipping point.

For the past few weeks, communities in Cape Town have been blockading major roads and highways in a protest against being made to live for almost two decades since the end of apartheid in shacks, leaky and crumbling homes and generally being treated like animals.

The DA, ANC, SACP and Cosatu’s heads are all still in the sand about the levels of anger on the ground – whether this anger be about housing, water or underpaid and dangerous work. The DA’s responses to any protests are written with the aims of portraying themselves as the victim or protecting white capital, and the tripartite alliance’s responses are now written with the sole purpose of voicing support for their preferred candidate at the ANC’s elective Mangaung conference later this year. It is therefore opportune for the DA to call for an investigation into the Marikana massacre, but not to criticize the mine owners, and opportune for the ANC, SACP and Cosatu to criticize the DA’s failure to deliver, but not to condemn the police massacre at Marikana.

The mainstream media supports this political game. Apart from their focus on former president Thabo Mbeki’s refusal to provide anti-retroviral medicines to pregnant poor, Black women, the media has refused, since 1994, to support the underdog in the story – the Black majority. Food price hikes by white-owned monopolies, the continued obscene profiteering by mine bosses, the failure of public-private partnerships in delivering housing and other services, have been stories largely ignored by the press.

The ANC has wasted the past 18 years in willingly paying back the debt incurred by the apartheid regime, spending billions more on a corrupt and pointless arms deal, dabbling in failed privatization and fiscal austerity experiments and building now-crumbling one room “kennels”.

One of the last reforms the ANC could make to save its bacon would be to roll out decent quality housing across the land on a massive scale, creating the thousands of jobs it has been promising.

Unfortunately, last week’s release of the National Development Plan 2030 by minister of planning in the presidency, Trevor Manuel does not give any hope that this will happen and can better be described as a damp squib.

In the area of housing, the plan is essentially a continuation of the failed GEAR economic policy. It proposes a mish-mash of incentives to get businesses to set up in townships, pie in the sky public-private partnerships and a vague “upgrade” of informal settlements.

While townships clearly need retailers and shopping malls to inject life into the area, and to assist residents without cars to shop close to their homes, these businesses have not led to a big increase of decent jobs in the townships. The staff employed by the retailers are all on casual or “permanent casual” contracts where they work irregular hours and end up with small pay cheques. The increase in the numbers of businesses in townships has not in itself made the townships more liveable – having a decent, permanent job that allows a worker to extend and improve his or her township home is key to that.

The plan also suggests that bank loans be combined with government subsidies and money made available by employers in their housing schemes to create a new kind of financing for working people who don’t earn enough to get a bond outright. This is a variation on the “gap housing” plan that has yet to prove effective. It is also a bit far-fetched given that hardly any employers have housing schemes any more, and that the ANC government has not even been able to get its own long-promised housing subsidy scheme for public servants off the ground yet. To qualify for a the smallest R100 000 “gap” house – which is little better than an RDP house – one needs to earn at least R4000 per month, which rules out most of the population.

And until now, when the DA and ANC governments have promised “upgrades” of informal settlements, they have not meant that they will build houses. An upgrade can mean anything from installing more pit or temporary chemical toilets, to putting in more taps or electricity.

People are desperate for houses above all. Yet Manuel’s plan also reflects the ANC’s unwillingness to move away from the privatized housing programme, where money is given to private contractors to build small housing schemes, instead of being given to municipalities to set up housing departments with properly trained workers. Since the end of apartheid, this privatized system has been used to buy political support and has seen private contractors milk the state of cash, using only the leftover money to build sub-standard low cost houses which are now going to cost R58 billion to rectify.

Human Settlements minister Tokyo Sexwale has shrewdly started to articulate the link between the poor quality post-apartheid homes and the role of the private contractors. Until now, Sexwale has insisted that private contractors who pocket most of the tender money and build faulty homes on the cheap are only corrupt individuals who need to be weeded out. But this month, Sowetan newspaper reported Sexwale tacitly admitting that privatised housing delivery was so flawed that government was “thinking about” setting up its own housing company.

Sexwale’s image was dented by last week’s exposé in the Mail and Guardian, which said he had invested $150 million with Israeli businessman Dan Gertler, who allegedly wooed Democratic Republic of Congo politicians to sell him mining rights in that country only to sell the rights on to global mining companies very quickly at huge profit.

The exposé, while grim, is not the only image problem that Sexwale faces. As he is now in the running for the deputy presidency at the ANC’s looming Mangaung congress, Sexwale will have to do something drastic to overcome the impression that he has failed in his housing portfolio. Sexwale is fond of blaming corruption for the failure to deliver houses on a large scale and the publicity stunt where he spent a few hours in a shack to experience slum life, did not make a great impression on the general public, who saw it as fake.

Sexwale also has the unfortunate tendency of saying things like “it is not an easy thing to build houses” at ceremonies where he hands over keys to a tiny 300 houses at a time. This does not inspire confidence. A new government housing company could be just the thing for Sexwale to improve his image ahead of the next elections.

Financial Mail: Housing – Each One Settle One campaign

Housing – Each One Settle One campaign
Open Invitation

Claire Bisseker

In a desperate attempt to tackle the housing backlog, housing minister Tokyo Sexwale is appealing to the Good Samaritan in each South African to invest in SA’s future by buying another South African a house.

Housing minister Tokyo Sexwale is appealing to the Good Samaritan in each South African to invest in SA’s future by buying another South African a house.

He calls it his Each One Settle One campaign and says it has received a “heart warming response” from a number of companies since it was launched at the JSE a few weeks ago.

Anglo Platinum, Impala Platinum and Old Mutual have been the first to pledge their involvement, but it’s not just aimed at big corporates. “Someone called yesterday saying they would give us [enough for] 200 houses from their family foundation,” says Sexwale. “I’ve had calls from school principals, families, and individuals. Someone has offered us 2m bricks.”

So how does it work? Will donations be pooled into one big fund? Will it be used to give away RDP-type houses to the poor or is the idea to build and sell larger, quality houses to those in what is known as the gap market, who earn too much to qualify for government subsidies but too little to service a mortgage bond? If so, how will this campaign make gap housing more affordable?

Despite a lengthy interview, the FM is still none the wiser. Sexwale says there is no preferred funding or delivery model behind the campaign. “It’s very open, there’ll be a multiplicity of approaches so that it’s open to whoever wants to come. There’ll be a model for every specific situation.

“If you can help one South African to the tune of R55000 [the current government housing subsidy] do it on your own — if you know what to do . But if you don’t ,” says Sexwale, “give us your money and we’ll put it to good use”.

Given the well-meaning intentions of such a scheme it seems churlish to remind ourselves that 87% of the houses built by government between 1994 and 2010 are considered “high-risk” structures. This is due to various defects. Also, the minister had to take back R463m in unspent housing grants from provinces last year.

That aside, how can Sexwale expect companies that already pay high taxes and are involved in many social responsibility projects and BEE initiatives to donate more to government?

“You’re doing your duty to yourself and your country,” he says . “SA is being confronted by service delivery protests every day and they’re becoming increasingly violent. There’s a lot of impatience out there, so people can’t just sit back and say: ‘Sexwale must deal with this thing’.”

The background document outlining the campaign states that “unless we take individual responsibility for housing our fellow citizens, SA may find itself in a catastrophic recession similar to that of the US”. It also claims that the campaign could create “tens of thousands of jobs”.

These claims are overblown — the US is not in a recession, nor is this campaign likely to provide the kind of growth catalyst that could prevent SA entering a recession.

“The minister has, since his first days in office, demonstrated a flair for political theatre and gestures calibrated to win media attention,” says Rhodes University lecturer and housing expert Richard Pithouse. He feels “there is simply no way that a campaign like this has any chance of making a substantial contribution to overcoming the housing crisis”.

Pithouse also warns against the danger of making social rights the responsibility of business, arguing that only the state has that duty. Unfortunately, he says, Sexwale “hasn’t demonstrated any willingness to move beyond superficial gestures and to get to grips with the structural issues at the heart of our chronic urban crisis”.

Sexwale does not take kindly to armchair critics who dismiss his campaign as being populist or short on substance. Nay sayers, according to Sexwale, do not understand the magnitude of the problem.

Certainly, the scale of SA’s housing backlog is huge. The department has built over 3m subsidised houses since 1994, roughly 200000/ year.

However, in 2008, SA’s housing backlog still stood at 2,1m. Since then it has grown to 2,3m because of rising urbanisation, population growth and decreasing household size.

The housing backlog means SA now has roughly 2500 slums and about 12m people without access to decent houses, according to the department. Its goal is to clear the backlog by 2030 but it recognises that it can’t do this alone.

At the same time, Sexwale is impatient with the suggestion that a tax benefit be provided to encourage campaign contributions, saying: “When someone sticks his arm in your car window at a traffic light you don’t attach conditions.”

He is in the process of appointing “a very senior business person” to head the Each One Settle One desk in the national housing department. Campaign contributions will be made into a separate bank account and overseen by an independent board of trustees.

The department also undertakes to conduct regular media briefings and televised appearances to report on the campaign’s progress.

Leon van Schalkwyk, Impala Platinum group executive (strategic finance) thinks there is a business case for non mining firms to facilitate employee home ownership, saying it results in a “solid, satisfied workforce, staff retention and less pressure on employers to keep raising salaries, because workers at last have affordable housing”.

Impala is investing R2bn developing the new Sunrise View estate in Rustenberg. So far 1500 houses have been built and a R17m school is next on the cards. But instead of renting or giving away RDP-type units, the mine has developed a more sustainable model.

It involves building quality two- and three-bedroom homes, costing up to R265000 each, and selling them to employees. This ensures that workers have an appreciating capital asset.

To ensure affordability, the mine has partnered the government’s National Housing Finance Corp (NHFC), which provides qualifying workers with mortgage bonds of up to R190000. In addition, Impala provides these employees with a R75000 interest-free loan. The lowest-paid workers also qualify for a government subsidy, which is offset against the bond to reduce the monthly instalments.

As a result, workers pay R1820/month for a three-bedroom unit whereas they would be paying R4043 at market rates.

Impala deducts beneficiaries’ mortgage instalments from the payroll. If a home- owner leaves the firm, he also has to begin paying interest on the R75000 company loan. This helps to retain staff. Only 29 of the first 1300 home owners have resigned over the past three years.

“We did it initially because we were driven by the mining charter, but now we see it works. It’s real upliftment,” says Van Schalkwyk. “It’s the right thing to do, to anticipate and invest in the future. It means our workers’ children will grow up in a decent environment and go to a decent school. In 10 years’ time they may work for us.”

Anglo Platinum is participating in a similar programme, facilitating the building of 20000 houses for its employees over the next 10 years, through an employer-assisted housing scheme that will cost that company R1,4bn. But normal companies don’t have the capacity to install bulk infrastructure, as the mines have done. If government could undertake to provide serviced sites, leaving it to firms to just pay for the top structure, then Sexwale’s appeal would look more attractive. It would stand even more chance if the SA Revenue Service could give incentives to companies to provide a housing benefit as a condition of employment.

“Then this thing could really work,” says Van Schalkwyk. “If we all do it, it’ll make for a better SA.”

Daily News: What is the Cut Off Date for Inequality?

What is the Cut Off Date for Inequality?

By Mandisi Majavu

Recently, Tokyo Sexwale, the Human Settlements Minister, announced that free housing for the poor has to have a “cut off date.” He argued that it is unsustainable to provide free housing to the poor “for a long time.” This is a far cry from the Freedom Charter’s spirit, which champions the principle 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.”

The post-apartheid state has become what Fanon warned against – a postcolonial government that governs with total disregard for the new social relations that black people of this country fought for. When black people came out in huge numbers to vote in 1994, they did so because they wanted to do away with white supremacist institutions; they wanted to change history. They wanted social revolution, not social evolution. That is what we were promised when we came out to vote in 1994. What we are living through at the moment is a ‘fragile travesty’ of what we fought for. Post-apartheid South Africa is going through a social evolution of the worst kind.

White privilege is still very much intact; and it self-perpetuates itself in different guises with plausible deniability. That is the logic of whiteness after all. Apart from the fact that whiteness is predictable, it is oppressive, and quite frankly boring. I use the term whiteness to refer to the system that allows whites to occupy most of the top positions in South African institutions, i.e., universities and private companies.

Economically, the post-apartheid government is powerless. And, in reality, big capital rules. That is partly why companies such as Anglo American Corporation, Old Mutual and South African Breweries were allowed to list on the London Stock Exchange. Moeletsi Mbeki recently pointed out, “This is proving to be one of the largest removal of capital gains, with the dividends being paid into another stock exchange.” So what is our government going to do about that?

We can reasonably assume that there is no “cut off date” for the South African companies that have their primary listing on the London Stock Exchange. Yet we constantly hear that there ought to be “cut off dates” for reforms like affirmative action and free housing.

When post-apartheid social movements point out that many black people in this country live in poverty and therefore there ought to be a cut off date on that too, the government sends out its goon squads to beat people into silence. There have been instances where these half-crazed, functionally illiterate goon squads have actually killed people. The case of Andries Tatane comes to mind. Abahlali baseMjondolo in Durban have intimate knowledge of how far these goon squads are prepared to go when in action.

Other government critics that cannot be dealt with through the use of violence are dismissed as being too dull to understand the intricate logic of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR). Apart from the reforms based social evolution that is currently taking place, the NDR has yet to disrupt the workings of fundamental historical forces.

Frantz Fanon wrote that postcolonial revolutions ought to give birth to new men and women. Are we to believe that BEE types such as Tokyo Sexwale, the founder of Mvelaphanda Holdings, are the embodiment of the new man Fanon was talking about? There is nothing new about BEE types or tenderpreneurs for that matter. White capital, BEE types and tenderpreneurs are all members of the same family. They play similar social roles; they exist to unashamedly exploit decent and honest working people, and to abuse society’s resources to serve their goals, which can be reduced to simply making maximum profit.

Many black people fought against these social roles during the apartheid regime, and they are still resisting them today. This is what post-apartheid social movements are partly fighting against. However, we are told that there is a ‘born free generation’ that supposedly has different aspirations. It is not clear how this born free generation has different aspirations when they are also expected to fill in social roles in institutions that require them to interact in old ways, albeit slightly different. As Al Sharpton said of the U.S., “We’ve gotten to an era where people are much more subtle and more manicured. Jim Crow is now James Crow, Jr, Esquire.”

What further complicates the issue in South Africa is that the people who are politically in charge are black people. Social movements such as Abahlali baseMjondolo point out, however, that the roots of social problems in South Africa are oppressive social institutions, and not individuals. They argue that it is ‘better to destroy’ the set of institutions that compels social actors to oversee an oppressive system. “Nothing good can be done on a rotten terrain,” according to Abahlali.

The other interesting point about the post-apartheid South African society is that it is a society that has different societal institutions that are pulling in different directions. For instance, the ANC views itself as a revolutionary movement that is engaged in the NDR project while, on the other hand, it is implementing neoliberal policies that are hurting the poor. Consequently, a large number of black people are unemployed, and many people live in poverty. The ANC Youth League is calling for nationalizations of economic institutions. The communist party and trade unions are in bed with the government. The white party, the Democratic Alliance, exists to preserve white privilege. And we supposedly also live in a non-sexist society where, ironically, violence against women is a national sport.

Also, as it has been said before, South Africa is a country with two economies: one developed and the other under-developed. Through social movements, people from the latter economy are organizing themselves to fight for a just and equitable society. It is starting to dawn on people that the NDR has reached its “sell by” date. It is possible that this is the thinking behind what the media refers to as municipal revolts.

The Times: Sexwale comment blasted

Sexwale comment blasted

A housing-rights organisation has asked Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale to withdraw comments about the possibility of a “cut-off date” for free housing.

The Abahlali baseMjondolo (Those Who Live in Shacks) organisation, which fights for the rights of shack dwellers, said Sexwale’s statement last week was a recipe for “uncontrolled protests”.

Sexwale told an international conference in Cape Town that the government was discussing an end to free housing.

“There has got to be a cut-off date. We are discussing that. You can’t cut off the poor right now, particularly in the current national economic environment. But we can’t sustain what we are doing for a long time,” Sexwale said.

Abahlali baseMjondolo’s Western Cape chairman, Mzonke Poni, who yesterday completed a three-day fast in protest against South Africa’s housing shortage, said the government should have held public hearings before discussing an end to free housing.

“If they open this for public comment the government will see it has no support at all,” said Poni.

“The state is already failing to build houses for the poor and now they want to have a cut-off date.

“When people occupy unused pieces of land, they unleash the police against us.

“We cannot accept an announcement that will see people move from bad to worse,” he said.

COPE MP Phumelele Ntshiqela, who claimed to represent 17000 members of an organisation called National Informal Settlements of SA, said he had been flooded with complaints since Sexwale made his comments.

“Sexwale must withdraw his statement. People are fuming over this. If the government cannot build houses or deliver services, then what do we have the government for? Housing people is sustainable because it creates jobs and restores dignity.

“We are going to fight this decision and [a cut-off date] is not going to happen.”

Richard Pithouse, a political science lecturer at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, backed the organisations and said the government had to continue providing housing until everyone was housed.

“If Sexwale thinks providing decent housing is negotiable he is completely out of touch with the political realities,” said Pithouse.

“There is no realistic vision for poor people to attain a dignified life in his world view, and we have no choice but to consider his attitudes a clear and present danger to the integrity of our society.”

IOL: Set deadline for free housing – Sexwale

Set deadline for free housing – Sexwale

Free housing for the poor has to have a cut off-date, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale said in Cape Town on Monday.

The solution to South Africa’s backlog of 2.3 million houses was not in providing free homes, he told the International Housing and Home Warranty Conference.

He added however, that now was not the time to “cut off the poor”.

“The solution will come not from free housing. There has to be a cut off date for discussing that. But we can’t cut off the poor right now, particularly in the current national economic environment.”

The answer to all housing problems lay in having a growing economy, where people had jobs and could access finance.

“We can’t sustain what we are doing for a long time.”

Sexwale said South Africa, which had around 2 500 slums, faced added problems from its growing population of immigrants, from countries such as Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

“We have natural population growth as well as growth because people are coming here.”

Another difficulty lay in the provision of social housing. South Africans, Sexwale said, preferred standalone houses with their own gardens, but a shortage of land around cities was making that impossible.

“The challenge is to develop social housing and planning for new towns and cities,” he said.

“The challenge is for densification. We are having to go higher and higher and higher. The challenge is quite big.” – Sapa