/ 12 March 2007

Fight poverty, Shilowa tells NCOP

The continuous decline in economic activity and jobs in the Sedibeng district municipality, which includes Vereeniging, is giving rise to poverty, Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa said on Monday.

Shilowa was speaking at the opening ceremony of National Council of Provinces’ (NCOP) sitting at the Saul Tsotetsi Recreation and Sports Centre in Sebokeng.

He said development plans are in place to better serve the people of Sedibeng, and to ensure that they benefit from the 2010 Fifa World Cup, to be held in South Africa.

”We are looking at possible developments around the Vaal Dam, tourism promotion using the Sharpeville monument and the forthcoming Fifa World Cup. Economic development and expended public works in Boipatong, Bophelong, Sebokeng and Sharpeville will also be put in place as part of the province’s 20 priority townships.”

Shilowa called for partnerships with the private sector in the area, especially big companies such as Mittal Steel.

”What value is the company making in the area? I’ve heard many people remark that other than pollution that they suffer, there are no economic benefits.

”I do not share the sentiments. However, companies in the area will need to do more if they are to regain the confidence of the community.”

Shilowa said the integration of economic strategies with the Free State to ensure development along the Vaal River should be considered.

Sedibeng mayor Mlungisi Hlongwane said the municipality was on the right track in devising programmes to improve the lives of people in the region.

”Sedibeng has the potential to grow and this visit will enhance our efforts in this regard … We are confident that this region will grow its economy and the interest and inspiration of the communities will be advanced and promoted.

”Accordingly, many of you will in no time not hesitate to relocate to Sedibeng, and we are ready to embrace you.”

Hundreds of people from in and around the area had gathered for the week-long parliamentary sitting to come and make their voices heard on issues affecting them.

The sitting — with the theme being Masijule Ngengxoxo Mzansi (Lets deepen the debate, South Africa –) is part of government’s initiative of taking Parliament to the people.

Most lamented unemployment, poverty and lack of housing.

”After thirteen years of democracy we still staying in shacks, We have no water or electricity. I want to hear from government when we are going to get all these facilities,” said 47-year-old Anna Shabalala.

Nanana Molemohi said there were no social workers in the Sebokeng, which made life difficult when applying for grants.

”We want the government to bring in social workers in the area. We have been applying for child grants for many years without success as there are no social workers to help us with the paperwork,” said Molemohi.

There were some familiar faces in the crowd — notably Phindisiwe Xaba, better known as Mam’Mkhize, who rose to media fame during the Jacob Zuma rape and corruption trial as the African National Congress (ANC) deputy president’s number one supporter.

She came along with women who called themselves the Evaton West ANC veterans. Leader Doris Lethetsa bemoaned the lack of development in Evaton West, saying no houses had been built there despite promises from the government.

”We are still loyal ANC members but nothing is being done to ensure that people have houses. Development is moving at a snail’s pace. We are here to tell government that we still have faith in them but they must get things moving as people will soon lost trust in them,” said Lethetsa.

They also wanted government to ensure that the elderly were cared for, as they were often neglected by society. — Sapa