The government had failed millions of people who were living "like pigs"
in informal settlements, and efforts to explain to them why this was so
after more than a decade and a half of democracy would be meaningless,
President Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday.
Zuma told a meeting of the President's Co-ordinating Council that the
conditions he found on Monday's unannounced visit to Johannesburg's
Sweetwaters informal settlement had brought him close to tears.
He was addressing a special meeting of the council, which brings
together ministers, premiers, MECs and mayors to deal with service
issues across national, provincial and local government.
The focus on Tuesday was on "unpacking the human settlements delivery
agreement" and discussing solutions to obstacles blocking provision of
service, Zuma said. He rebuked departments for having budget rollovers
every year and said he could not comprehend how the state could fail to
spend money while service lagged behind.
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, Planning Minister Trevor Manuel and
Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation Minister Collins Chabane were
also present, as were MECs for housing and human settlements and
representatives from the SA Local Government Association (Salga).
Zuma expressed dismay at government officials who, he said, were aware
shack-dwellers' living conditions, but who sat on their hands.
He also questioned foreign nationals who "forged" documents to gain
access to services meant for South African citizens, and locals who
received government houses and chose to sell or rent them out and move
back into shacks.
Of Sweetwaters, Zuma said: "There is no decent housing, sanitation,
electricity, access roads or health facilities. There is only one
unreliable communal tap, according to residents. I visited two houses
and it's not very often that I really feel almost like crying.
"One lady lives in a place that when you come in, you may believe that
people left this shack 10 years ago. People are sleeping like pigs,"
"How does it happen that some of our people still live in such areas, 16
years into our freedom and democracy?" Zuma asked.
He said the housing backlog was estimated at 2.1-million units,
affecting 12-million people, while there were about 2 700 informal
"Through a progressive human settlements programme, we will be able to
reverse the legacy of the Group Areas Act, the Influx Control Act and a
host of other apartheid legislation which dehumanised our people," Zuma
Programmes being put in place were aimed at undoing this legacy and
restoring to people "their dignity, self-esteem and pride".
living conditions have to improve," he said.
Developing human settlements - which aim to provide not just housing,
but also amenities such as schools, clinics and business centres - are a
key priority for Zuma's administration.
While inroads had been made in improving the provision of basic services
such as housing, living conditions in some areas left "much to be
While problems caused by apartheid would not be resolved "overnight",
Zuma warned that the government would find it difficult to explain
conditions in areas such as Sweetwaters when the country celebrated two
decades of democracy.
Keywords - President Jacob Zuma - Housing the
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