The Minister of Human Settlements, Lindiwe Sisulu, on Thursday said her department was willing to provide housing to university students to meet one of their demands in the #FeesMustFall campaign which is “free accommodation”.
Universities across the country have temporarily suspended their academic programmes amid violent protests in which students demand free education as well as a range of things like free accommodation under the banner #FeesMustFall.
Speaking at the official opening of the inaugural 2016 Human Settlements Conference in Port Elizabeth, Sisulu said she was in talks with the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, in a bid to assist with provision of housing for students.
“We have a White Paper that deals with the rejuvenation of inner cities. Through that, we will be able to provide accommodation to students in the inner cities throughout the country. We are in discussions with the department of higher education but nothing has been signed as yet,” Sisulu said.
Sisulu said her department had built about 4.2 million houses so far, and aimed to reach the 6 million mark by 2019.
She emphasised that government’s concern was previously the quantity of houses provided. But since the establishment of regulatory body, the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) in 2000, Sisulu said government had changed to focus more on the quality of houses built.
Among the issues Sisulu tackled extensively was her controversial pronouncements and the department’s qualifying age policy that would see people younger than 40 not granted free housing.
In this regard, Sisulu appealed to the youth’s conscience saying that the elderly and indigent people were more in need of housing that their younger and able counterparts who usually sell government houses instead of living in them.
She said a lot of elderly people were dying in numbers without the dignity of owning a house, and that was the reason the department saw fit to prioritise them.
“I’ve been asked a lot to review this policy, but I cannot. There are so many people so elderly poor people that people die in dignity. Our legal definition of indigent people are those over the age of 60 and child-headed households. For the rest, we have a whole lot of subsidies and social housing programmes.”
“The message we are sending to our youth is, there are so many other people that need housing. Please work with us to provide them with houses.”
Sisulu also addressed the issue of corruption within the department, saying that corrupt officials would face the full might of the law and made an example of Nelson Mandela Bay Metro which was brought under administration less than a year ago.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality was sanctioned with a Section 84 notice for poorly building double storey units without the NHBRC enrolment of plans at NU29 in Motherwell.
Newly-elected Mandela Bay Mayor, Athol Trollip, said he would like Sisulu to allow the municipality to build its own Metro Houses and that there was no reason why the city should not be the next developmental hotspot.
“We would really like to have the responsibility to build our own houses. I do know that the minister’s intervention was based on very good reason. There was massive corruption in our housing department,” Trollip said.
“There was, even regrettably, an assassination to the point that some senior officials started coming to work wearing bullet proof vests. And that is unfortunate and we cannot have that kind of scenario anywhere in South Africa.”
The conference was hosted in partnership with Nelson Mandela Metro University under the theme “Sustainable future cities and human settlements begin today” and was attended by government officials, civil society representatives, and foreign dignitaries.
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