STATEMENT BY

MS SANKIE MTHEMBI-MAHANYELE
MINISTER OF HOUSING REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA

DURING THE PLENARY OF THE SPECIAL SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY FOR AN OVERALL REVIEW AND APPRAISAL OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE HABITAT AGENDA

NEW YORK 6 -8 JUNE 2001




 Chairperson,
Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dr Annan
Executive Director of the UNCHS, Mrs Tibaijuko
Excellencies Distinguished Delegates Ladies and Gentlemen
 

INTRODUCTION

After years of colonial and apartheid planning in South Africa, the country has come a long way from focusing on undoing and redressing past injustices, to introducing new policies and strategies based on principles of integration and sustainability, people-driven development, satisfying basic needs, transparency and nation-building. Our Constitution (1996) provides the cornerstone for all policy and legislation. Its "Bill of Rights" provides for a rights-based approach to governance, development and justice.

Within this context, one of the key priorities of our government this year, is to make a decisive and integrated contribution towards meeting the economic challenges our country faces. President Thabo Mbeki, in his State of the Nation Address in February 2001, indicated that investment in economic infrastructure will be prioritised to support high-growth areas. He announced that the priority economic growth sectors are tourism, agriculture and energy, and we recognise that sustainable settlements are vital to the development of these sectors. R6 billion (US$750 million) has been allocated over the next three years for the implementation of an Integrated Rural Sustainable Development Strategy and an Urban Renewal Programme in South Africa. These programmes are aimed at implementing a sustained campaign against rural and urban poverty and underdevelopment by, amongst other things, investing in economic and social infrastructure, human resource development, enterprise development, the enhancement of the developmental capacity of local government, poverty alleviation and the strengthening of the criminal justice system. The Ministry of Housing is actively involved in these programmes to ensure human settlement and housing issues are well integrated in these important national priorities.

The fundamental objectives we seek to achieve nationally, are driving our economy into a highgrowth path by increasing its competitiveness and efficiency, raising employment levels and reducing poverty and addressing persistent inequalities.
 

 PROGRESS MADE IN THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE HABITAT AGENDA

The government of South Africa is grateful to the international community for support towards achieving our vision of adequate and sustainable human settlements. In striving towards the achievement of an African Renaissance, we recognise the important co-ordinating role which UNCHS (Habitat) can fulfill in building links and sharing best practices in our region. We therefore look forward to a strengthening of the Centre as an acknowledgment of the important role it plays, particularly in our Region.

South Africa furthermore supports the UNCHS's global campaigns for good governance and secure tenure as cornerstones for the implementation of the Habitat Agenda. We would accordingly report on the implementation of these themes in our country.

Good Governance:
We support the principle of the maximum devolution of governance and that of strong local government as a key to the successful implementation of the Habitat Agenda. Our second round of participatory democratic municipal elections has been successful and the re-organisation and rationalisation of our municipalities is proceeding. The Municipal Systems Act (2000) provides for integrated development planning processes and for performance-based local government which is beginning to make its impact felt in the area of good local governance.

Secure Tenure:
South Africa has focussed its efforts and commitment to a democratic sustainable process of housing development that:

1. gives priority to the needs of the poor and special focus groups in our society (i.e. youth,
the elderly, persons with disabilities, women, HIV / AIDS victims);
2. involves meaningful and wide-ranging consultative processes with affected individuals and
communities;
3. provides for as wide a choice of tenure options as possible with emphasis on full title,
without neglecting informal land rights and rental options.
4. ensures as wide a choice of housing and tenure options as is reasonable and affordable;
5. is economically, fiscally, socially and financially affordable and sustainable;
6. is based on the principle of integrated development planning;
7. is administered in a transparent, accountable and equitable manner and upholds the
practice of good governance;
8. encourages and supports individuals and communities in their efforts to fulfil their own
housing needs by assisting them - through the Peoples' Housing Process - in accessing land, services and technical assistance in a way that leads to the transfer of skills to the community; and
9. promotes environmentally sound human settlements through a wide range of interventionsthat place emphasis on energy-efficiency, water-efficiency and sustainable greening of the living environment.

One of South Africa's key successes is the fact that the right to adequate housing is entrenched in the constitution. In order to satisfy that right, the housing programme has delivered over 1 155 300 houses, and to date, close to 5 776 300 people have been housed. The South African presentation to the Thematic Committee will provide more detail in this regard.

CHALLENGES FACING SOUTH AFRICA IN THE FUTURE IN TERMS OF THE HABITAT AGENDA AND OTHER HOUSING DEVELOPMENTS

When South Africa committed itself to the Habitat Agenda in 1996, a number of the concepts embodied in the Agenda were already being implemented through the Reconstruction and Development Programme.

Since then many advances have been made in our persistent efforts to fight poverty and underdevelopment in all sectors of society. Despite these advances, after six years we are still faced with daunting challenges. We are concentrating our efforts on bridging gaps and planning our housing programme in such a way that it responds to a dynamic housing environment, especially the strategic needs of our main target group: the poor.

Challenges which require our special attention include:

1. Confronting and managing the social, economic and legal impacts of the HIV/AIDS
epidemic on our human settlements programmes. On this basis, we are undertaking research on the impacts of this epidemic on the housing sector as a whole.
2. Promoting informal settlement eradication and inner city renewal and safer cities free from crime.
3. Poverty eradication: The target group for our national housing programme are the poor and we feel the issue of poverty is closely linked to the housing problems we face, including homelessness and informal settlements. In this regard we are examining the sustainability of the current housing subsidy programme such that it can continue to contribute towards meeting the housing needs of the poor thus contributing towards poverty alleviation. The housing subsidy programme targets poverty by:
. empowering the poor to participate in the economy by giving them shelter which they can utilise for economic purposes, like small enterprise bases;
. empowering small and emerging contractors by awarding housing construction contracts on an affirmative procurement basis; . empowering women through the People's Housing Process (PHP) to acquire skills to provide their own housing and to participate in the construction sector; and
. generating employment, because our housing construction projects promote the employment of local communities and the use of local material suppliers.

4. to develop mechanisms of expanding access to housing credit and finance to potential
housing beneficiaries especially those with incomes of less than R 2 000 (US$ 250) per month to assist them to improve on the houses provided through the subsidy programme. To this end, the Ministry of Housing is developing a national savings initiative the major aim of which is to link savings, credit and the subsidy to allow potential beneficiaries to contribute and actively participate in their housing provision.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, South Africa is committed to the existing international partnerships we have and we believe that there are valuable lessons to be learnt from each other. We also believe that continued support of each other through our strengths, skills and experiences will assist all of us in achieving our common goals, rooted in a sustainable future for all, especially the poor and the homeless in our communities.