Durban’s Housing Crisis

Durban, the major port in Africa, has a very serious housing crisis that has been ongoing for many years. It started in the late 1980’s with the advent of the informal settlements mainly on the periphery of previously Indian and Coloured areas. The then white city council could not be bothered to solve this problems as it wasn’t a white problem. In 1996 the first democratically elected city council took over Durban City Hall and in accordance with the reconstruction and development program, efforts were made to attend to the problem, which is three-fold:

  • Firstly there is the reality of homelessness, vagrancy and destitution – this is completely unacceptable in Durban.
  • Secondly there is the phenomenon of informal settlements which are unserviced and which do not have proper sanitation, water, refuse removal, stormwater drainage, electricity or post and telephone services. Needless to say the informal settlements also do not have proper addresses as the  narrow walkways between the shacks are not recognized as streets and the individual shacks do not have their own unit numbers – principally because they are illegal constructions in terms of the municipal bye-laws. In addition to which the informal settlements are unquestionably linked to devaluation of the areas encroached upon leaving most homeowners and ratepayers worse off. Finally the concomitant factor of criminals hiding in informal settlements and using the informal settlements as springboards to make raids for criminal purposes upon the neighbouring suburbs, also brings the quality of life in these affected areas into question. The informal settlements are factually makeshift centres in need of social development and if there is unemployment in the informal settlements or prevailing criminality there is no doubt that the informal settlements contribute to the housing crisis rather than solve the problem of the housing crisis.
  • Thirdly there is existence of the Human Settlements Unit of the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality which builds and administers what used to be called “Council Housing”, who by their own admission are short 400000 units of council housing.

A few months ago, I befriended Hassan Haniff a hardworking DA ward councillor here in Durban. Recently in conversation with me, he took some time to share his perspective on the housing crisis in Durban.

  • Hassan, is there actually a housing crisis in Durban? Do the people of Durban experience a lack of dignity as a result of not living in a proper home?
    • Avishkar, there are people from Durban who are living on the street. The former mayor of Durban is alleged to have stolen at least R50 million in a tender scam. How much more must the people of Durban suffer, before the ANC decides to stop stealing and start building.
    • Houses, blocks of Flats, Hostels, Housing Estates – NOT more Shacks. The Shack is the dominant form of construction that is ongoing in Durban today. The Shack is not a solution to homelessness. A Shack is a health hazard, a fire hazard and a bye-law violation.
    • We cannot have two standards – one that says the City of Durban must approve every building being constructed and another that says you are free to build Shacks wherever and whenever you want without any consideration for the owners of the land you want to build on.
    • And yet there are people whose only choice is live in a dangerous Shack or live on the street – and that is a pathetic state of affairs – and the ANC has created this problem.
    • The ANC used these people for their own gain, because in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the ANC as the UDF brought people from the rural areas of Natal and KwaZulu to Durban to live in so called “squatter camps”, so that they could vote in Durban, that is how the ANC won the Durban vote in 1994 and the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality elections in 1996.
    • That is how the ANC won ward councillor seats outside of the townships in Durban – because the IFP controlled the townships in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
  • But surely the City of Durban is actively engaged in developing the undeveloped areas of Durban and this means zoning and designating new areas for economic development?
    • Where is this development, show it to me? The ANC in Durban has been talking about Cornubia for twenty years, where is it? It doesn’t take twenty years to develop a project like Cornubia which is nowhere near completion.
    • The ANC doesn’t have the intelligence or common sense to sit with the town planners and city engineers and look at each ward and work out what municipal land can be zoned and designated for economic development and naturally housing, both private development and public development.
    • The ANC is only concerned with fighting within the ANC to share the R50 billion eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality budget among the thieves in the ANC.
    • We as ward councillors have never been asked or authorised to compile a ward specific economic development plan that includes provision for housing whether on private land or on municipal land and even if we took the initiative, and in my ward we are doing this, it would not be supported by the ANC.
    • The ANC is using the homelessness, the vagrancy and the destitution to devalue the quality of life in Durban so that they can steal from municipal expenditure.
    • Factually the ANC is using the informal settlements to skew the local government election results and to devalue the former Indian and Coloured areas so that developed properties in these areas can be bought cheaply
  • So what you’re saying is that the City of Durban is lagging behind its obligation to the people of Durban on purpose?
    • Yes, the poverty is being sustained and proliferated by the ANC because it serves the ANC’s purposes. The more dire the situation, the more city council spends and the more the ANC steals.
    • The eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality is not providing what you called “council housing” fast enough. It is waiting for appropriations from national and provincial government, when it should be developing the City of Durban on its own accord and through its own processes.
    • The City of Durban is caught in the middle of a contestation between the ANC from KZN acting nationally, the ANC in KZN acting provincially and the ANC from KZN acting locally. There is this phenomenon that Durban as a caucus within the ANC is a kingmaker throughout the ANC – because the stealing from Durban and the Province of KZN benefits the ANC as a whole and the KZN Caucus of the ANC at large.
    • eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality is a cash-cow for the ANC and for as long as that is the case, the ANC in Durban will tow the line in exchange for political clout – and as result of this eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality focuses on a few projects at a time and for the most part nothing happens to solve problems – its just a steal-a-thon for the ANC
  • Hassan it cannot be that the ANC government which has been in charge of eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality since 1996 is seemingly happy with people living in shacks or on the street?
    • What proof do you need? The ANC buys votes with T-shirts and Caps, with Food Parcels and Hampers and with Airtime and Data. What makes you think the ANC is not clever enough to buy votes-for-life with houses and flats?
    • The informal settlements have been waiting for housing for well on thirty years, what makes you think that the ANC is just going to give the homeless their dignity with a home to call their own? No. The ANC doesn’t care about the people. You go around Durban, there are beggars at every intersection. These people are all homeless. These people are all vagrants. These people are all destitute. Where is the social development services of eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality to intervene with psychiatric care, life orientation, social welfare, employment and reintroduction into civilised life? Nowhere! But the ANC in Durban can all drive fancy cars and wear fancy clothes. It is disgraceful.
    • It is yet more disgraceful when the ANC shouts about the “poorest of the poor” and the “vulnerable”.
    • Why have all the illegal structures that exist as Shacks not been cleared away through the “Slums Clearance Programme”? Apart from the fact that these people have nowhere to go, the ANC hasn’t built the houses that are required to relocate these people.
    • No-one is going to each informal settlement and solving their problem. To say this informal settlement will be rehoused in this place and it will happen in so many month’s time. The ANC is not actively solving the problem. It’s very sad that the ANC can tolerate a situation that it created whereby people do not have dignity. Very Sad.
  • Okay, hold on, what is it that you are suggesting? What actually needs to be done?
    • What needs to be done is simple, it’s common sense. Declare a moratorium on informal settlement creation. Say, “No more informal settlements are to be created”. Then go to each informal settlement and take a census. A detailed census that gives us a picture of the socio-economic status of the people living there. Next on a ward by ward basis identify municipal land that can be developed into what you call council housing estates. And build. Relocate the informal settlers and clear out the slums.
    • Don’t talk about free housing. There’s no such thing as free housing. Housing provided by the municipality must be rented out to the people who live there or sold to the people who live there. A rental payment or mortgage repayment of R200 per month is sufficient to cover the cost of an RDP house or flat. The cost of building must be reduced and trimmed – not on quality of building material but by removing the corruption that has crept into the process.
    • I speak about mortgage bonds, when we are talking about poor, unemployed, homeless, vagrant, destitute and disadvantaged people, and I say that (with only a life insurance policy as security and collateral) PostBank and in fact all the banks and financial service providers can provide 60 year mortgages that cost R200 per month that will amount to R144000 in total and even if the interest rate was high would cover the cost of a R72000 house. An RDP house only costs R36000 to build – WITHOUT the corruption.
    • Naturally if they doubled their repayment they could substantially reduce the term of the mortgage bond
    • But the process of providing municipal housing must be complemented with the provision of social development. You can’t just rehouse people from nothing without giving them the skills to live with dignity and pride – and remember this process would create new ratepayers on an ongoing basis.
  • You talk about this problem as though the Democratic Alliance can solve it, do you see yourself being able to win the next local government elections?
    • The Democratic Alliance is going to win Durban, and that is a FACT!
    • The ANC has and is stealing from the people without uplifting the people – it is creating a very small African middle class that is funded off the ANC’s looting – and they are not interested in uplifting the poorest of the poor or the vulnerable.
    • The IFP is unable to make a viable offer to the people because the IFP does not command and control the traditional leaders as once before. The IFP needs to recreate itself as the power that once was Inkatha ya KwaZulu – but the standoff between Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi and King Goodwill Zwelethini is preventing this – the traditional leaders are following the money and the money is from the ANC – but even the traditional leaders are disaffected with the ANC as KZN lags in terms of social and economic development.
    • The other political parties of Durban, including the EFF, are quite willing to take stealing from where the ANC leaves off  – they don’t have plans for sustainable solutions for the people of Durban.
    • And as with all personality cults the Minority Front has imploded after the death of its founding leader – so the people of Durban only have one choice and that is the Democratic Alliance.
    • The Democratic Alliance has a distinct plan to solve the Durban’s housing crisis, the DA will improve the quality of life in Durban, the DA will increase the value of property in Durban.
    • The DA will create employment in Durban, the DA will give the people their dignity and the DA will uplift the people of Durban out of poverty.
    • There is only one choice for the people of Durban – Vote DA – Vote Democratic Alliance!

Well as you can see, there is the problem, the never ending stream of new homeless people and the lack of economic development conducted on a ward by ward basis. Does Durban’s future lie with the Democratic Alliance and will the Democratic Alliance be able to solve Durban’s Housing Crisis? As we move towards the next local government elections will the people of Durban vote for change? Will they vote Democratic Alliance?

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