MEGA human settlements are not a sophisticated repackaging of the state’s reconstruction and development programme (RDP) housing plan, a top Gauteng official said.
“Mega human settlements”, which had an estimated R5bn price tag attached to them, were the latest incarnation of Gauteng’s attempt at not only addressing the province’s housing backlog but also an avenue through which it would create employment.
So said Gauteng human settlements MEC Jacob Mamabolo, who was out to woo private sector investors at a provincial infrastructure conference in Midrand last week.
Before Mr Mamabolo spoke, premier David Makhura and Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe sought to beseech private business to plough its money into the provincial government’s multibillion rand infrastructure programme, saying the state could not go it alone.
In total, Gauteng estimates it will spend R1-trillion over 15 years on infrastructure.
“Post-apartheid cities” was the catchphrase at the conference as Mr Mamabolo sought to allay any concerns that the RDP model was still in play.
It was as good as gone and tough lessons had been learnt from Cosmo City, where backyard dwelling is a booming business. This, Mr Mamabolo said, had turned Cosmo into a slum, citing unemployment as the culprit.
Cosmo City, situated in northern Johannesburg, was built amid fanfare but now serves as a cautionary tale of what happens when money is thrown into a project without considering work opportunities.
But RDP housing would now be replaced by high-rise structures, said human settlements acting director-general Mbulelo Tshangana.
According to the Gauteng provincial treasury’s fact sheet, the department’s annual performance plan over the medium term shows that it expects to spend between R5bn and R6bn a year for the next three years on the project.
A total of R734m will be used to assist individuals who do not qualify for state housing but do not earn enough to purchase their own homes. A further R162m will be used to upgrade mining towns.
Philip Harrison, the development planning and modeling chair at the University of the Witwatersrand, commended Gauteng’s leadership for its “proactive” stance on tackling the province’s housing needs.
But Mr Harrison said the plan needed to be subjected to rigorous debate.
“It is important as we hear the bold visions that we also have the debate, because what happens with implementation … is that these mega projects have massive implications for decades into the future … they’re left there for decades maybe even centuries,” said Mr Harrison.
Thinking about the project’s long-term sustainability was also important.
“We have to ask those questions, what is really required to build those long-term sustainable futures? How have our settlements performed? Do the plans that are proposed support these requirements?” he asked.