Poor have right to good land - Mbeki

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Moshoeshoe Monare

President Thabo Mbeki yesterday flayed unscrupulous "landlords" who raked in incomes from illegally renting out empty inner-city buildings.

He also said it was time to put a stop to "pro-rich" housing developments, including gated communities and golf estates, where the wealthy had the best land situated near the best facilities, and the poor were relegated to dusty, semi-developed land far situated far from modern infrastructures.

Referring to recent Bryanston, Sandton, protests in which hundreds of families were evicted for illegally occupying buildings, Mbeki said those people who exploited the homeless must be brought to
book.

The president was speaking yesterday at the launch of the Brickfields housing project, which is a a lowcost block of flats in the downtown Johannesburg section of Newtown.

The flats were refurbished as rental stock for low-income dwellers earning less than R3 500 a month.

They are subsidised through a R19-million private-government partnership programme. There are 3 000 people living in the 646 units. The rents vary between R1 200 and R2 000 a month.

Mbeki said: "This development demonstrates that it is possible to

regenerate the inner cities and avoid resorting to unscrupulous fly-by night operations similar to some of those we have seen in this city, where our people are placed in derelict buildings that have no
lights, no water and no proper sewerage.

"This is done by people who are only interested in making as much money as possible out of the desperation of our people for shelter.
"We should increase our efforts to bring to book those responsible for this unacceptable behaviour."

Mbeki said some people were so brazen in their criminal activities that they even resorted to murder to hijack buildings in order to extort money from people.

"I would like the city mayor, working together with the police, to attend urgently to this matter," he said.

The Brickfields project was also an attempt to end racist apartheid housing patterns in which class determined the geographic location of rich people and poor people, Mbeki said.

Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa said he believed the Brickfields housing project was also another way of combating inner-city decay and tackling rapid urban development.