Mbeki opens multi-million rand Brickfields

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The perpetuation of settlement patterns along racial, gender and class divisions is an obstacle to the objective of building a non-racial and non-sexist society, says President Thabo Mbeki.

"To succeed at this task we have an urgent challenge of bringing to a stop the pro-rich housing development strategies that ensure that the best located land that is close to all the best facilities is always available to the rich. A situation where the best land is allocated especially to create gated communities and golf estates while the poor can only access dusty semi-developed land far away from modern infrastructure," he said.

Mbeki was speaking during the official opening of one of the largest ever public-private partnership residential housing developments in South Africa when he opened the Brickfields housing project in Newtown, Johannesburg.

The project is part of Gauteng's plans to build stronger and more sustainable communities by creating residential places in the inner city so that people can live near their places of work. It was also aimed at fighting poverty in the area by contracting the services of entrepreneurial Small, Medium and Micro Enterprise contractors wherever possible.

Mbeki said it was everyone's duty to ensure housing development was used to create vibrant communities for all people, to build communities that had adequate recreational facilities including crèches, clinics and schools. These communities should also have active sports instructors and have sufficient numbers of trained professionals that assist with career guidance for learners and students.

He said: "As we engage in these important programmes of housing developments, we must see these as part of the larger national agenda of the regeneration of our communities and accordingly use these processes to help build vibrant, viable and lively communities which have internalised the ethos of Ubuntu and are able to utilise the age-old values of Letsema (voluntarism) and Vuk'uzenzele (stand up and do it yourself)." The President also called for the strengthening and improvement of partnerships to ensure the building "of not just houses but homes, to integrate our communities and use housing development to accelerate the programme of bringing a better life to all the people of South Africa".

Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa said a strong focus on social inclusion was particularly important for Gauteng with its high levels of in-migration. He added that there was a need to pre-empt and counter the tendency of city-regions towards the urbanisation of poverty and the disruption of social support.

"As a province we have come to the conclusion that rapid urbanisation happens in all global city- regions and Gauteng is no exception. Our challenge is on the provision of the necessary infrastructure to deal with the issue," said Shilowa.

He added that rapid urbanisation brought the necessary skills to the province "and the question we must answer is: where do we settle these young and energetic people who are here to contribute to the growth of our economy?"

The Premier also spoke on the provincial government strategy to deal with housing challenges in the province and reported on the successes the province had already made. The multi-million (R121 million) Brickfields project is a product of a long process that was entered into between the government and the private sector. It is one of the eight housing projects that make up the Presidential Job Summit Housing Programme. Others are Tribunal Gardens, Newtown; and Carr 1 and 3.

It is also part of the inner city regeneration aimed at making Johannesburg a desirable residential area and maintaining its acclaimed status as a 'Destination City'.

The project was initiated by the Johannesburg Housing Company to make a significant contribution to the development of high quality housing in the Newtown area of the Johannesburg Central Business District. It comprises over 750 homes and associated services and is located on vacant land at the foot of the Mandela Bridge.