None spared as Sisulu cracks whip over housing

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HUMAN Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, who returned to her original portfolio following the cabinet reshuffle after the general election, appears to be on a mission to resolve the country’s mammoth housing backlog once and for all.

The fact Sisulu knows the portfolio has obviously assisted her in quickly identifying the most urgent needs.

She previously managed to get the various stakeholders in the housing development pipeline to make commitments to improve the delivery of housing and is again looking to get buy-in from the same stakeholders at a housing indaba to take place in Pretoria next month.

Sisulu has been frank about areas where the government has failed to live up to its commitments and the impact this might have on getting stakeholders to recommit to a social housing compact.

She has also been candid in her comments about not being able to lecture the mines about the housing conditions for their employees, when government employees are living in similar conditions when discussing the planned government employees housing scheme.

There is a determination to reverse the 25 percent to 30 percent decline in the delivery of housing in the past five years by, among other things, convincing the Treasury to agree to the introduction of incentives to encourage the private sector to get involved in the provision of social housing.

At the same time, Sisulu intends to address the “unacceptably high” government subsidy for the top structure of social housing units, which if successful would allow her department to do more without any increase in its budget.

The shift towards mega projects in the hope of attracting major building and construction companies, because of their scale representative, is another initiative to speed up housing delivery.

Sisulu has ambitious goals, but for the sake of the country and its people, she has to succeed.

Mining

The mining lekgotla held in Johannesburg yesterday illustrated the disconnect between the mining houses and the communities in which they work.

In a panel discussion on transformation Harmony Gold executive director Mashego Mashego said the company had spent more than R200 million towards housing for its communities.

He was later put on the spot during a question-and-answer session. Faith Letlala, a delegate and member of the community in which the mining house operates, asked Mashego where were the houses?

“Mr Mashego from Harmony must stop harmonising us and tell us where are the houses,” she said. The audience gave her a round of applause.

Mashego explained that the money had been allocated towards the conversion of single-sex hostels to family units. In fact no new houses had been built.

The mining sector is compelled to improve the lives of the communities where they operate.

They are also under pressure to provide services ranging from education to infrastructure.

Marikana is a case in point. Platinum companies are compelled to provide houses for employees who have lived in squalor with no basic services for years.

They were blamed for perpetuating the vicious cycle of the migrant labour system that has resulted in broken families.

Unfortunately, the mining companies are not solely responsible for the provision of services.

The government has a primary responsible to provide services to citizens. However, officials do not want to be harsh on the mining companies or the communities.

Communities’ expectations will fall short if they are entirely reliant on companies to give houses. page 20

Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Roy Cokayne and Dineo Faku.


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