The Nelson Mandela Foundation in collaboration with the Hanns Seidel Foundation hosted a public dialogue to unpack the policies on inclusive housing in the City of Johannesburg and to also launch the Mandela Initiative report on the persistence of inequality in South Africa.
Participants in the dialogue were Meshack van Wyk, MMC for Housing for the City of Johannesburg, Nomzamo Zondo, Director of Litigation at the Socio-Economic Rights Institute SA as well as Margot Rubin, the National Research Foundation Research-Chair on Spatial Analysis and Planning.
The Mandela Initiative, launched in 2012 to do a national inquiry aimed at understanding why structural inequalities persist in post-apartheid South Africa, launched their Grappling with Inequality in South Africa report.
The focus of the initiative was on the cycle of persistent poverty and inequality with particular regard to the economy, early childhood development, public schooling, land reform, health and social cohesion.
According to the report, in 2015, about 30.4-million South Africans lived in poverty, or below the upper poverty line of R992 per person per month, three-million more than in 2011.
And 27% of children under five years had stunted growth due to malnutrition and poor health, while youth unemployment stood at 45% for people between the ages of 15–34.
The report notes that the wealthiest 10% of the population own at least 90 – 95% of all the wealth in the country. And although there may be an income growth for the middle class, “there is no middle class with regard to wealth”.
“Traumatic legacies of the past have left deep, unhealed wounds that have had terrible psychological, spiritual, economic, and physical consequences.
“White South Africans have not demonstrated a willingness to give up their privileges and there hasn’t been the requisite political will to tackle this challenge. Entrenchment of inequality has been abetted by the dysfunctional education system, numerous problems in the skills development system and high levels of unemployment,” said the report.
For Zondo, what compounds the issue further is that the City of Johannesburg is leading a campaign on gentrification in the inner city and has classified certain people as illegal.
“The biggest issue for us is that in Joburg if you do not have money you cannot get anywhere lawful to live,” said Zondo.
According to the current Draft policy on inclusionary Housing, private developers have to include low-cost housing and set affordable rent for households earning R2,500 when refurbishing any of the 500 derelict buildings that the city has put out for tender.
However, for Zondo, this is not enough as it excludes most of the people in the inner city. The policy leaves out the added utilities at R900.
“If you make R2,500 you can’t spend half of your salary on accommodation,” said Zondo.
The MMC of Housing noted the challenges the city has had to deal with in its two years in office. He added that despite being on the job for six months, they have built mobile clinics for people living in informal settlements so they don’t have to travel far for health care.
According to Rubin, the city has an “enormous amount of housing policies, that are complicated and not implemented”. This results in a spatial city where the “poor are pushed to the edges”.
Zondo asked who is being included in the inclusionary housing as it has not been seen to house the poor.
“If you want to ensure inclusion you must make sure the people who are there are provided for,” continued Zondo.
When asked about expropriating unused land in the City of Johannesburg, Van Wyk said there are ongoing discussions with people in the inner city and the Johannesburg Property Company was the entity mandated to deal with all land in the city.
“I cannot tell you which land is available (for expropriation) at this moment,” said Van Wyk.
According to Zondo, this is not new as, over the past years, all the previous administrations at the City of Joburg have decided no one will address the development unless it is private developers. And Mayor Herman Mashaba is continuing with this plan.
“There is at times a stubbornness by politicians,” said Zondo.
However, for Rubin, the challenge is a reliance on the wrong side of the private sector.
“We think of private sector as (only) these big companies, but they come in twofold. There are small-scale private developers who want to make an impact,” said Rubin.
And these philanthropic small-scale developers should be given a chance rather than the big private companies that care only for profit.
Thobile Dlamini, from the Planning Department at the City of Johannesburg, spoke from the audience to give context to the issues they are facing.
She admitted that the current policy does not cater to the inner city market and they are considering creating another layer of inclusionary housing as the policy is still in its draft stages.
Furthermore, the city has no choice but to put up the buildings for tender as it does not have money to buy and refurbish all of them.
The state must look into how it can expropriate these buildings and use a state-run model by putting them into public hands, such as NGOs, said Zondo.DM