Cape Argus: ‘People are prepared to fight for land’

‘People are prepared to fight for land’
Evaluate impact of land laws – Zille

October 12, 2010 Edition 1

CLAYTON BARNES Political Writer-

PREMIER Helen Zille has admitted there are no easy answers and simple solutions to the province’s housing crisis.

“It is hugely challenging,” said Zille yesterday, after opening the Development Action Group’s national housing conference in the city.

“We need to work on solutions based on reality rather than ideologies,” she added.

Zille said teenage pregnancies in poor communities, where single parents eventually ended up on the housing waiting list, exacerbated the problem.

“There are two trajectories here,” she explained. “The tragically familiar one – where children fall behind at school, abuse substances, drop out of school, fall pregnant, are unemployable and end up on the housing waiting list; or the second trajectory, where the parent – also on a grant – supports the child through school, the child gets a bursary, goes to university, finds a job, buys a house and starts a family.”

About 41 000 families are listed as backyarders on the city’s housing waiting list. Many of the families have been on the list for decades.

Zille said the impact of national land policies and laws also needed to be questioned.

“It is easier to build a stadium that can seat 55 000 spectators in the centre of the city than to approve plans for a small housing development,” she said. “The public processes could drag on for six to 10 years.”

The City of Cape Town had applied for six major provincial land parcels to be transferred for housing developments.

Housing MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela and Transport and Public Works MEC Robin Carlisle were also working on an inner-city regeneration housing scheme to reduce the backlog.

She said they anticipated an influx of 250 000 residents to the inner city, including Woodstock, Salt River and District Six, over the next 10 years.

But S’bu Zikode, president of Abahlali baseMjondolo, a social movement for urban poor based in Durban, warned that people could start occupying land on their own, by force, if the government failed to devise a plan soon.

He said the poor and homeless were becoming impatient, and would go to extreme lengths to secure shelter.

“People can only take promises for so long,” he said. “If land is not found, they will find it themselves. People are prepared to fight and pay with their lives for land.”

Human Settlements Deputy Minister Zou Kota-Fredericks, who also addressed the conference, said the provision of housing could not be the government’s responsibility alone.

She said housing had become a critical national issue, and that all stakeholders, from NGOs to civic associations, needed to form partnerships to develop a sustainable solution.

“We need all South Africans in this to fight,” said Kota-Fredericks. “The shortage of well-located land is at the centre of the problem. Cities have become a beacon of hope for many, but local municipalities cannot handle it on their own.”

By 2013, 50 percent of South Africans would be urbanised.

“This means that the cities will bear the burden of having to provide shelter,” she said.

“We need sustainable, quality housing. We have succeeded in providing 23 million housing opportunities since 1994.”

Kota-Fredericks said the department was addressing four priorities:

# Accelerating the delivery of housing opportunities in informal settlements.

# Upgrading informal settlements.

# Encouraging social inclusion when new developments were built, by making a percentage of units available to those on housing waiting lists.

# Encouraging the private sector and businesses to make affordable units.