It is noteworthy to state the following from the onset: It has long become universally accepted that the three most basic needs which people in our world must enjoy are food, clothing, and shelter.
In a nutshell, this Human Settlements: Vision 2030 Youth Summit, here in the wonderful city of Durban, is essentially about the ever so critical dimension of shelter – appropriate, affordable and good quality shelter.
The road to this Summit commenced with a Youth Round Table discussion in Johannesburg during February 2011. There, leaders of various youth organizations in our country converged to deliberate upon youth involvement and participation in Human Settlements: Vision 2030 driven by the Ministry of Human Settlements.
THE GENESIS OF THE CONCEPT: HUMAN SETTLEMENTS
The concept of Human Settlements, beyond housing, is largely globally associated with the 1976 United Nations Habitat conference held in Vancouver, Canada. This concept was later put on the agenda of United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2002.
In his State of the Nation address in 2009 President Zuma put it thus:
“As part of social infrastructure development we will provide suitably located and affordable housing and decent human settlements… human settlements is not just about building houses. It is about transforming our cities and towns and building cohesive, sustainable and caring communities with closer access to work and social amenities, including sports and recreation facilities.”
However, it is remarkable that long before the United Nations Vancouver conference of 1976, the people of our country, proclaimed in the world acclaimed Freedom Charter of 1955:
“There shall be Houses, Security and Comfort.
All people shall have the right to live where they choose, be decently housed, and to bring up their families in comfort and security; unused housing space to be made available to the people; rent and prices shall be lowered, … slums shall be demolished, and new suburbs built where all have transport, roads, lighting, playing fields, crèches and social centres.”
In this regard the Ministry and National Department of Human Settlements are the ones tasked, on behalf of government, with the championing and implementation of the strategy around Human Settlements – from concept to reality.
In essence we say where we live must also be where we can learn; where we live must also be in the proximity of where we can leisure; we say where we stay should also be where we can play, where we can pray and so on.
KEY ELEMENTS OF HUMAN SETTLEMENTS: VISION 2030
• The total eradication of the backlog of plus 2,1 million housing units which translates into approximately 12.5 million people.
• The outlay of the Human Settlements budget as opposed to that of mere housing in order to create more employment opportunities and thus contribute to increased economic growth and development via the roll out of bulk infrastructure such as sanitation, water and so on.
• The creation of integrated community settlements encompassing facilities and amenities like schools, hospitals, places of worship, sporting facilities and most importantly commercial and industrial areas within reasonable distances from residential areas.
• The utilization of densification and inner-city high rise strategies to harness economies of scale and thus house more people per square metre.
• The encouragement and facilitation of People’s Housing Process where residents can construct their own houses thereby making them less dependent on government. Ours is a developmental and not a welfare state.
• The total eradication of ghettos including the potentially explosive issue of backyard dwellers many of whom have been in dire straits long before those who are recent land invaders.
• To solicit a greater buy-in by the corporate sector as a partner of government, labour and community stakeholders in campaigns such as the “Each-One-Settle-One” due to be launched later this year.
YOUTH IN ACTION AROUND HUMAN SETTLEMENTS
When all is said and done for the purpose of this Summit the vital question of the day is not that of Human Settlements in general but that of Youth In Action Around Human Settlements. It is about the involvement and participation of the youth in taking forward the concept of Human Settlements: Vision 2030.
In this regard during our interaction with members of Parliament last year I stated the following:
“In crafting our vision, (of Human Settlements 2030) we are mindful that a child born today will be 20 years old by 2030, and will need somewhere to live. We should be planning for the needs of that future adult. To succeed, Human Settlements vision 2030 must be (essentially) for and by the youth – it is about their own future homes, apartments, bachelor’s flats and so on; it is about the future rural settlements and urban centres: it is about future towns and cities.”
This now brings us to the burning questions which this, your summit, needs to carefully deliberate upon.
1. How can Human Settlements vision 2030 be more enhanced and materialized?
2. How best can residential de-racialisation be achieved to erase the negative impacts of apartheid spatial planning? This refers to the yawning gap between Johannesburg and Soweto, Durban and Umlazi, Pretoria and Mamelodi, Cape Town and Khayelitsha and so on.
3. Since 1994 to date approximately 3 million housing units have been distributed to people in our society -particularly the poorest of the poor. Consequently the amount of land parceled away together with these housing units is to the tune of more than 76 000 hectares! Or the equivalent of 800 square kilometers. Thus how best can the strategy of land redistribution through Human Settlements be enhanced at the same time as housing opportunities are accelerated?
4. To what extent can the role of the financial services – banks and other financial institutions – be galvanized towards the increased mobilization of finance in order to improve the development of the residential property market?
5. With land being a scarce and finite natural resource how can the mix of the different housing typologies be managed whilst improving the quality of life of the people to enhance human dignity? For example products can range from single housing units, flats, and duplexes, to more complex densification and high rise inner city housing structures.
6. The future is fraught with uncertainties around climate change. What research and development of green technologies should be undertaken towards the production or improvement of human settlements products that will be sensitive and responsive to challenges of climate change?
7. How can the current negative rural to urban migration be stemmed plus the eradication of slums, mekhukhu, ghettos, amatshotshombe and imijondolo towards the creation of more and better Human Settlements in the urban areas as well as in the country side?
8. What opportunities are available for youth development, skills enhancement and sustainable job creation within the property market and the construction sector? (There are legal services, engineering, quantity surveying, product design, architectural sciences, banking and finance including basic skills like plumbing, brick lying, painting, fitting, electrification and so on).
9. What is the process towards home ownership, how does one access a government grant if needs be, how does one access housing loan finance, bonds mortgages and so on? How can the dissemination of information around housing and home ownership be improved for the benefit of young persons who are new entrants in the housing market?
10. These and other questions including streamlining of government mandates, integration and coordination of national departments, better interaction between the three spheres of government, greater involvement of the corporate sector with their profits and labour unions with their pension funds, will require answers to enhance social justice as well as economic democracy.
There are many uncertainties lying ahead in the future of our young people. The world is in the throes of unending conflicts and tensions, with different parts experiencing all manner of instabilities which poses a threat to our own society. One such threat is the steadily increasing instability of the global economy…
Although our country avoided a direct hit from the devastating effects of the last global economic recession, all indications are that the next one may not pass us over. The increasing likelihood of the default of sovereign debts looming over several developed nations can have devastating effects upon the developing economies such as ours.
Therefore this summit needs to be seen as an opportunity, as a point of entry into a much broader discussion around our national discourse. Human Settlements is merely a door into such a discussion which would require more than two days.
This youth summit coincides with the week in which the entire world and our country celebrated the birth day of our iconic and emblematic leader - the founding father of our nation – Madiba, who has said “it is in our hands to make ours a better world”
Let us take these words of wisdom to heart in our exchanges during this summit. There is no magic wand to create the future… the future can only be a product of well thought-out creative ideas based on real material conditions. We are confident that this summit will go some way in rising to this challenge.
When we crafted Human Settlements Vision 2030 which is located within the environment of our country’s total national developmental space, we did so fully aware that this vision is not futuristic. It is realizable and can be concretized. The task of this summit is for you the youth of our country, the heirs of the future, to chart your own path into that future to make this vision your own reality.
Best wishes for a successful summit.
I THANK YOU