A total of 8 700 human settlement projects are currently under way across the country in a bid to eradicate “ugly little pondokkies [shacks]”, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale said on Wednesday.
“We are talking about new, good-looking houses — no ugly little pondokkies. We are changing the cause for our people. They need dignified houses,” he told a packed “South Africa Conference 2030 — rethinking the spatial development trajectory”, hosted by the Development Bank of South Africa in Midrand.
He said throughout discussions that delegates should not ignore talking about shoddy construction companies that had so far stolen R1,3-billion from the ministry by building houses that were falling apart.
The ministry was looking at upgrading thousands of informal settlements per year, as the housing backlog was “huge and frightening”. It currently stood at 2,2-million units.
He said this could not be blamed on the influx of foreign nationals, but rather on the country’s failure to grow the economy’s GDP at 6% a year.
“The greatest challenge relates to our economy and in particular the fact that we need higher GDP to reduce mass poverty,” said Sexwale, adding that 16 years after the country’s transition to democracy the 6% target had not been realised.
“This number is not a thumb-suck, but rather a scientific figure based on the need to grow the economy faster than population growth rate.”
He also spoke of a need for developing new cities in South Africa, saying there had not been any such developments since the apartheid government was in power.
“We can do it … we have that capability.”
Sexwale emphasised the need for officials to be closer to the people and to listen to them. He said his spending the night at an informal settlement earlier this year was not a gimmick.
“I spent the night working. I had my office there … avoid disconnecting from people,” he urged delegates.
Ideas and knowledge to be shared at the summit needed to be put into action, he said. — Sapa