||With its breathtaking stadiums and facility upgrades, the World Cup is
putting a magnifying glass on deteriorating conditions in South Africa
CELBRATING the 16th anniversary of freedom requires us to pause and
consider why South Africa's maldevelopment and worsening inequality are
generating community protests with the ferocity of the anti‑apartheid era.
Within six weeks, national and international observers will find it
child's play to attack Durban's city fathers ‑ and by extension, we in
civil society, for letting them get away with it ‑ because of our most
visible urban assets, what professionals call 'the built environment.'
One of the world's greatest sportswriters, Dave Zirin, visited the
Centre for Civil Society last month and after calling Moses Mabhida the
most breathtaking stadium he'd ever seen, gave us a needed reality
check: This is a country where staggering wealth and poverty already
stand side by side. The World Cup, far from helping this situation, is
just putting a magnifying glass on every blemish of this post‑apartheid
True, visitors to Cape Town and Johannesburg will likewise comment upon
degenerate conditions in the Cape Flats and the Soweto or Alexandra
shacklands, while Green Point stadium and Soccer City get billions of
subsidies under both African National Congress and Democratic Alliance rule.
Durban, though, boasts the most memorable new sports facility (R3.1
billion worth, overrun from an original R1.8 billion budget), and we
also have the country's highest‑profile sleaze and chutzpah exuding from
the bureaucracy and building contractors.
Once again it's all too easy to point fingers at City Manager Mike
Sutcliffe, as did Warren Ozard of the Federated Hospitality Association
recently regarding the stubborn refusal to adopt Blue Flag standards:
He has his own ideas about things, and a very thick skin that helps him
ward off all his critics.
The same can be said of Sutcliffe's reactions to Remant Alton's failed
bus privatisation, the hated Warwick Junction shopping mall proposal,
unending public subsidies required at the Point and ICC, the delusional
Dube Trade Port, disastrous water/sewerage breakdowns, and an economic
development strategy reliant upon sports tourism in a coming era
constrained by climate change and fast‑rising air travel taxes, to
mention just a few foibles.
But worst of all, as Zirin put it, To see a country already dotted with
perfectly usable stadiums spend approximately R24 billion on new
facilities is to notice a squandering of resources that is unconscionable.
The contradictions reach their peak when comparing Mabhida to horrendous
shelters in which hundreds of thousands reside within more than a
hundred shack settlements across eThekwini. Last week, for example, Cato
Crest residents survived their fourth fire of 2010, with 200 shacks
destroyed. Once again, a paraffin stove was to blame, because denial of
affordable electricity to poor people is long‑standing city policy.
Yet pathologically self‑congratulatory officials don't seem to give a
damn. Last Tuesday, municipal housing committee chair Nigel Gumede
joined Sutcliffe to reject findings of the bulky National Home Builders'
Registration Council report on Zikhulise Cleaning, Maintenance and
Transport, which has a reported R300 million contract to built 18 000
houses, begun in December 2006.
The Council report on 1200 Umlazi houses (a third of those built so far)
found three quarters were built below municipal building standards and
need repairs. The lack of water‑borne sewerage in the B10 project
represented a pollution and health risk, and without storm‑water
drainage, there is a high possibility of mudslides.
Zikhulise owner Shauwn Mpisane reacted: I stand by what I have always
said, and that is that the houses do not have any structural defects.
Shauwn's husband is S'bu, who commuted to his police constable job in a
Lamborghini after turning state's evidence in a taxi murder trial in
which another policeman was shot dead and S'bu allegedly drove the
Their extraordinary lifestyle includes a R15 million mansion and R100
million automobile collection. S'bu intimidated the brave Mercury news
editor Philani Makhanya, and his police docket was subsequently stolen,
and only just reconstructed a few days ago.
Across our province, 49 housing projects like Zikhulise's contain more
than 40 000 defective houses, according to a government forensic
investigation. Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale's major
accomplishment may simply be to finally begin prosecution of the
fly‑by‑night tenderpreneur class.
Two years ago, Sutcliffe stated that the housing backlog would be
eradicated by 2016, while an ANC campaigning document, Khuliswa
Chronicle, promised that ANC members will get houses this year. Mayor
Obed Mlaba justified the vote‑catching language: We are politicians.
But when you make promises and don't keep them, then that is wrong.
Also wrong is a new municipal policy in which a private debt collection
company will enforce R67 million in arrears from 600 council flats with
dysfunctional bodies corporate. According to a municipal report, council
debt collectors have already generated massive homelessness,
notwithstanding tenants' attempts to try their best to pay their levies.
But last month's defence of the Mpisanes by Sutcliffe must be the lowest
level a state official has yet stooped: The reports that these houses
were built to sub‑standard levels are absolute nonsense and part of
media frenzy. Thank goodness that KZN Provincial Human Settlements MEC
Maggie Govender has the stomach to contradict Sutcliffe.
In South Durban, there is yet more controversy at the Lansdowne Housing
Project. My CCS colleague Oliver Meth has long reported on the low
quality of public housing and environmental degradation at the decrepit
Rainbow Barracks complex on Tara Road in Merewent next to Engen's
refinery complex. But well before the Barracks were demolished earlier
this month, residents opposed moving to the 128 units constructed by the
city at Lansdowne.
According to Meth, Residents subsequently realised they were being
relocated from flats that averaged 59 square meters, to 45 square meter
units built in a swamp area, near a busy road, isolated from the rest of
the community. Lansdowne is far from schools, hospital, shopping centres
and other necessities. The buildings are on stilts and the foundations
already have cracks.
When residents complained about poor quality construction, Gumede
replied, We will not give any community preferential treatment. I will
say it again, those who don't want the houses can go to hell, I don't
care about them. They will never again be a priority on the housing list.
So what have we got? A city elite overpopulated by Malema wannabes,
quite capable of playing the race card, enriching themselves, and
talking left so as to walk right. Unless something is done, the
world‑scale embarrassments will pile up faster than goals against Bafana
Bafana next month.
Patrick Bond directs the UKZN Centre for Civil Society.