Government officials launched a mega housing and development project in the East Rand area on Tuesday. The launch of the multi-million project brought smiles to the faces of many who have been living in squalor for years, but just not enough to dispel doubt that promises will be delivered. By BHEKI C SIMELANE.
On Tuesday morning Government officials launched the John Langalibalele Dube Mega project in Duduza in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng. Excited residents came out in their numbers to witness the occasion, with community members from surrounding areas such as Tsakane and Kwa Thema joining in festivities.
Presidential hopeful and Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu told exited community members that government would build a civic and business centre. She said seven Primary schools and three secondary schools would be built. In addition, Sisulu said eight business facilities, and 53 parks would be established and community gardens and a hospital were also in the pipeline.
“On top of that we will build a hotel here,” Sisulu said.
The houses promised to residents are made of durable soft wood and just about the size of an average RDP house. Each house can take up to three days to build. Sisulu said this would help reduce costs and lessen the waiting period. She said she would personally handle the housing register so that the allocation of houses would be handled at national level to ensure due process was followed.
The 10,000 houses promised to residents will cost over R10,000, which Sisulu said would reduce costs and reduce the waiting period.
The land on which development is to get under way was acquired by the city of Ekurhuleni in the late ’90s, for development purposes. The total size of the land available for the proposed John Dube Development Precinct is approximately 497.22 hectares. The John Dube development Company will be the developer in the project.
The entire John Dube Development Precinct as currently envisaged will cost more than R35-billion and the bulk of the funds will be sought from the private sector. The Human Settlements Department and the City of Ekurhuleni will also contribute to the costs. The entire John Dube project is expected to be realised within a period of 10 years.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura said the project would be funded by both the private and public sector. Makhura added that this project is the third of this magnitude, and the government had 30 such projects currently under way in the region. Government is in the process of acquiring more land on which to build.
Human Settlements MEC Paul Mashatile told community members that Ekurhuleni would launch six other projects, some of which had already begun. He said the government’s target of 100,000 houses in five years seemed a reality as already 60,000 houses had been built in the area alone. Mashatile stressed that housing would be awarded to people on the department’s data base. A verification process would be undertaken to determine who qualifies.
Mashatile said people who registered in 1996 and the elderly would be the government’s priority. People with disabilities and military veterans would also be accommodated. He said the project would cover a vast majority of the areas’ population.
Makhura stressed that the project was meant to benefit locals. He said the Government had refrained from building a small number of houses in various areas, but had employed a different approach because people had been waiting for a long time.
Gauteng’s housing backlog has risen to 600,000 since 1994.
“The people will think we have forgotten them, we haven’t forgotten you, especially the people from the far-east,” said Makhura.
The Gauteng Premier also announced the building of a new university, which will have campuses across Ekurhuleni. He stressed that a university was important in the area for the upliftment of the youth – who some community members admitted were mostly unemployed and mired in nyaope addiction.
On the need for a university in the area, city of Ekurhuleni officials contend that it cannot be that a city with a population bigger than that of four other cities in the country does not own its own university. The city say it’s unaffordable for students from Ekurhuleni, especially poor students, to enroll at universities in Johannesburg and Pretoria.
He acknowledged the current living conditions in the area were not conducive to quality life. “Many of you have been waiting for a long time. John Dube is here now. Sunshine is here.” Makhura said in reference to Dube’s middle name, Langalibalele. Dube was the founding president of the South African Native Native National Congress (SANNC), what we now know as the ANC, and led the party from 1912 to 1917. He remains one of the most respected former leaders of the party.
“We are going to fix education in Ekurhuleni, we want to fix the economy, and just about everything,” Makhura added.
Sisulu, who was ushered onto the podium with jubilant singing, received a warm welcome from community members. Sisulu, who has her eyes on the ANC presidency, highlighted how the project would benefit locals.
“What we are creating is not just houses but jobs.” Sisulu encouraged community members to come to the sites and learn all the skills involved in building and construction so that when the project is complete, people would be up-skilled.
“There will be ‘jobs galore’,” Sisulu said.
Sisulu warned community members against selling the houses, though she acknowledged that others sold the houses because they need cash to bury relatives, especially parents. Instead, she said that houses would come with title deeds so that owners could secure loans from banks to cover their funeral expenses, instead of selling the house.
In campaigning mode, Sisulu said people should not raise an eyebrow when they see more than a few people in contestation to become president. She pointed out that even during John DubeVs time, the ANC leader contested the ANC presidency with two other contestants back in 1912.
Mina Smith, an epileptic 53-year-old who survives on her disability grant, was optimistic. “I think I’ll get a house now. I live in a shack in Tsakane Extension 10. This might finally be my chance to stay in a decent house. I can’t even afford paraffin I rely on coal residue which we re-mould into coal. Life is hell here. Our children are also unemployed.”
Patricia Ndiaye, 48, said the visit by the officials to launch the project brought hope that she would finally get her own place. Ndiaye also lives in a shack in Tsakane Extension 10.
“What we want to see going forward after this launch is not deafening silence but action from the officials,” Ndiaye said.
Harriet Masilepe, 54, dismissed the launch as a farce, saying it was not the first time that such big promises were made.
“I don’t believe any of this will materialise. They registered us and promised all kinds of jobs before, but only built roads, but even all that just fizzled out. I don’t believe any of these lies. These people have little sympathy for our suffering,” Masilepe said. DM
Photo: Gauteng Human Settlements MEC Paul Mashatile (far left) stands next to Human Settlements Minister Linidiwe Sisulu, Gauteng Premier David Makhura, Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina and other officials for the launch of a mega-project that residents hope will transform Ekurhuleni. Photo: Bheki C. Simelane.