Opinionista Mmusi Maimane 31 March 2014

The secret to my Soweto family’s success

Growing up in Dobsonville, Soweto, the odds were against my family and especially against my future. We lived in a four-room house under the oppressive system of Apartheid. My parents certainly were not able to live out their dreams because of the opportunities denied to them. But their hope was that I would live a different life, where opportunities for education, business and success were available to me.

As it turns out, I was able to live my dreams. I attained two masters degrees, became an entrepreneur, and eventually came to running for premier in the country’s economic hub because democracy allowed me to do that.

But in that short story, there is an element missing – a very important element that started everything for me. Without it, I would not have been able to take the opportunities that came my way later in life.

You see, my parents had a title deed for their four-room house in Dobsonville.

Against that title deed, they could borrow money. They could invest in their property and extend their economic power beyond what was available to them at the time.

With that investment, against property my parents owned, I was able to take opportunities in education through my hard work in school that other kids in Soweto could not.

I thank that title deed, because it was the genesis of the success I have been able to achieve, and also the success I want to enable for thousands of other residents of Gauteng.

In Gauteng, over 220,000 families who have received state-subsidised housing do not have title deeds. This makes the backlog for government housing beneficiaries close to one in two families.

We also haven’t heard much from Premier Nomvula Mokonyane on what will be done to fix a situation where hundreds of thousands of people are denied access to economic capital in Gauteng.

I know what title deeds accomplished for me and that is why I am committed to rolling out these important documents at unprecedented speeds in this province.

In fact, the DA has a record of success in speeding up these economic passports for state-subsidised housing beneficiaries. Where the opposition governs, the ANC’s record of title deeds rollout had been incredibly lax. The backlog of title deeds for families had steadily risen under them in the Western Cape to 36%.

In just one term in office, the DA reduced that by 10 percentage points – to 27%. At that rate, the backlog of people waiting for title deeds for their houses could be brought to an end in 15 years.

People must own the land they live on. That is the passport to participation in the economy that hundreds of thousands of families in Gauteng are waiting for.

Housing doesn’t strike you immediately as being related to job creation, but it is in fact central to people starting businesses, getting loans and participating in growing the economy.

In addition to the high-speed rollout of title deeds, I also believe we need to do more to ensure quality housing delivery.

That’s why it is so vital, also, to stop corruption in housing tenders by making the committees open to the public. Anyone who wants to see why any tender was awarded to anyone should be welcome to come and look. And housing lists should be made public.

Everywhere I go, people tell me of the pain they feel at the lack of communication around housing. They don’t know who will get houses, who got the tender, and when they will get their title deed.

I know from first-hand experience the difference a title deed makes. We need to make that happen, and soon. DM

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