Monday, May 01, 2006

removal or renewal

KwaZulu Natal Province in South Africa is hot to punish squatters. This dispatch from the Sunday Tribune of 30 April (subscription only, thanks to Richard for emailing the text) asserts that the local housing minister is seeking to create a special security force to demolish illegal constructions. Similar units--known as 'red ants' because of the red coveralls they wear--are much maligned and feared in other provinces of South Africa. It seems like the new South Africa is embarking on a war on the poor.

KZN push for an end to slums
April 22, 2006

By Xolani Mbanjwa

The KwaZulu-Natal government is pushing for legislation that will give
local authorities the power to eradicate the proliferation of slums.

MEC for Housing and Local Government Mike Mabuyakhulu this week tabled
the Prevention of Re-emergence of Slums Act which, if passed, will be
the first of its kind in the country. Its aim is to eradicate shack
settlements by 2010, ahead of the 2020 target set under the Millennium
Development Goals.

Mabuyakhulu said he wanted the law to be passed before the end of the
current financial year. He wants municipalities to employ special units
similar to the so-called Red Ants - the shack settlement-clearing
security guards in Gauteng which are used to demolish illegal settlements.

The MEC said it had become clear over the past 12 years that housing
needs were evolving, bringing new challenges.

His visit to the Housing Conference in Kenya, involving all housing
ministers in Africa, prompted the department to "vigorously maximise
housing options if slums and informal settlements are to be eradicated".

"Our diplomatic approach is not working. We are now taking a stronger
approach," he said.

More than R500 million had been budgeted for slums clearance programmes
in 2005 and this year and a portion of the money had been used to clear
illegal shacks in areas such as Clare Estate in Durban.

"There is a huge need for housing in KwaZulu-Natal, and in Durban, in
particular, which has the biggest number of slums.

Trends all over the world show that the biggest cities attract slums.
The problem with housing is that when we relocate people to low-cost
houses, almost immediately new slums are erected elsewhere," said

Development experts, however, have reacted to the proposed legislation
with apprehension.

Dr Richard Ballard, researcher at the University of KwaZulu-Natal
School of Development Studies, said, "Similar proposals have been kicked
around, but it is the first time that attempts have been made at enacting
such a law.

"It worries me, because with this legislation you're not addressing the
actual housing problem, but addressing it at the wrong end." Ballard
said people wanted to access economic opportunities closer to the city
because of jobs.

"I am not likening the ANC government to the apartheid government, but
this is what the apartheid government used to do to deal with similar

Why are we going back to those methods? It would seem that
policy-makers are more worried about the image of the city than the poor. It seems
as if they are punishing the victims of the system that brought them
there in the first place."

In his budget speech last year, Mabuyakhulu said an audit undertaken by
his department had identified about 250 000 slums and informal
settlements, about 80 000 of which were found in the greater Durban area.

Last year the department was able to complete about 40 000 low-cost
houses in the province and now aimed to build 250 000 by 2010, with 49 000
units under construction.

Since 1996 the KwaZulu-Natal government has built more than 500 000

Appealing for parliamentarians to support the proposed legislation,
Mabuyakhulu said, "It is my honour to announce that the department has
conducted an audit and compiled a schedule of existing slums.

This schedule has guided the department in its drive to eradicate slums
and existing informal settlements with a balanced focus on urban and
rural slums . . . We are convinced that without such an intervention, our
slum clearance programme will be an exercise of futility."

Mabuyakhulu also announced an increase in the housing subsidy this year
from R31 929 to R36 538.

Lennox Mabaso, spokesman for Mabuyakhulu, said the new Act would be
piloted and "it is likely to have an impact on other existing legislation.
People will no longer erect shacks and claim ownership of property
within 24 hours. It will put an end to 'Shark Farming'."

1 comment:

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