Address by the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki at the
Opening of the Brickfields Housing Development, at the Newtown Cultural Precinct,
Johannesburg, on 12 August 2005.
Honourable Minister of Housing, Lindiwe
Honourable Premier of Gauteng, Mbhazima Shilowa,
Your Worship, Executive
Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, Amos Masondo,
MEC for Housing, Nomvula Mokonyane,
of the Johannesburg Housing Company, Murphy Morobe,
Chief Executive Officer
of the Johannesburg Housing Company, Taffy Adler,
Chief Executive Officer,
Gauteng Partnership Fund, Elize Stroebel,
Chairperson of the NHFC, Eric Molobi,
Executive Officer, Barclays/ABSA Group, Steve Booysen,
Chief Executive Officer,
Anglo American South Africa, Lazarus Zim,
I am very happy to be afforded this privilege of opening the
Brickfields Housing Development, which is part of the integrated housing programmes
that were agreed on at the Presidential Job Summit in 1998. This is indeed one
of the concrete results of the commitment to the resolutions of the Job Summit.
wish to thank and pay tribute to all the important players, both public and private,
who have collaborated to ensure that through this housing programme, our people
have the opportunity to realise one of the central demands of the Freedom Charter
that 'all shall have housing, security and comfort'.
In particular, we
are thankful to the Johannesburg Housing Company which has worked hard to provide
housing for mixed income groups and to people, especially black people, who for
the best part of their lives could only access housing in the townships and rural
areas. Clearly, we need more of these types of initiatives so that we have an
increased possibility to advance the important injunction of the Freedom Charter
that our people should access better and decent housing.
I think we will
all agree that the history of Brickfields is a story still to be told, because
it represents many aspects of where we come from as South Africans and where we
are going. As those who know the history of this place will tell us, that Brickfields,
which emerged as a dormitory of the mining industry in the 19th century and which
was a multicultural slum area by 1890, united immigrants from Europe, those from
China and India, the Cape Malays and local Africans.
Already at that time,
Brickfields represented a nascent non-racial society, whose demand was to be a
central driving force of our liberation struggle for almost the whole of the 20th
century. Unfortunately, like many such communities throughout our country, this
place was destroyed in 1905 when Africans were forcibly removed and through this
act, an indelible blow struck against the possibility of a non-racial society.
time, this place became a wasteland as both the apartheid government and the mining
bosses refused to regard as their responsibility the provision of proper housing
and security and comfort to their workers.
Today, we are indeed very happy
that through the collaboration of the National Department of Housing, the Gauteng
Provincial Government, the Johannesburg City Council and the Brickfields Housing
Development with all the private sector partners, we have been able to resurrect
what was clearly becoming a wasteland into a place of hope, a place that inspires
confidence into the future, a place that brings back hope where there could have
T.S. Eliot's says in his poem, The Wasteland:
are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images,
where the sun beats
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
the dry stone no sound of water.
Only there is shadow under the red rock,
in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at
evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust."
F. and Hollander, J., The Oxford Anthology of English Literature, Vol II (OUP,
New York: 1975, pp. 1406-7)
Indeed, as the dream of a non-racial community
died under the load of colonial and apartheid laws, it seemed as if Brickfields
will forever represent 'the heap of broken images, where the sun beats and the
dead tree gives no shelter' and where 'the cricket' or any sporting activity offered
Today, we are here to transform the dust and the wasteland
of Fordsburg Spruit and to exorcise the apartheid ghosts of the slums of the Brickfields
Estate. No longer shall the spectre of the shadows of apartheid, colonial subjugation,
forced removals of vibrant communities and bull-dozers haunt us.
Fordsburg Spruit has come alive as the eternal fountain and spring of hope and
prosperity, as the golden roots and branches of new families creating new safe
spaces and new opportunities amidst the sturdy rock and clay.
do we see dusty streets or a cloud of a handful of dust. For in the hidden splendour
of the golden dust, arises something different - a new city of prosperity, of
healthy communities, of decent housing, of security and comfort.
Housing project is a tangible expression of how the worldwide phenomenon of decaying
inner cities, can, through sustainable urbanisation, be transformed into peaceful,
better havens and friendly neighbourhoods.
It is indeed good that this social
housing project, is in line with the Department of Housing "Breaking New
Ground" strategy for urban renewal, human settlement and sustainable development.
As we know, the government's Comprehensive Human Settlement Plan has identified
key focus areas among which are:
Accelerating the delivery of housing as
a key strategy for poverty alleviation;
Utilising the provision of housing
as a major job creation strategy;
Ensuring that property can be accessed
by all as an asset for wealth creation and empowerment;
in the economy, combating crime and promoting social cohesion;
development to break barriers between the First Economy residential property boom
and the Second Economy slump;
Utilising housing as an instrument for the
development of sustainable human settlements in support of spatial restructuring.
housing products by placing emphasis on rental stock.
Clearly, this project
is line with the government's strategy and is making important contribution to
the efforts of reversing apartheid spacial patterns along racial and class divisions.
Undoubtedly, to truly realise the noble ideas of the Freedom Charter we need to
move faster towards new cities where we are able to use housing to integrate our
communities so that we should no longer have parts of our cities designated exclusively
for the rich and others for the poor.
Although our parliament and government
have eradicated apartheid laws, there still a perpetuation of settlement patterns
along racial, gender and class divisions, which is an obstacle to the objective
of building a non-racial and non-sexist society. This, we must bring to a speedy
To succeed in this task, we have, among others, 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.
All of us have
a duty to use housing development to create vibrant communities for all our people;
to build communities that have adequate recreational facilities; that have crèches,
clinics and schools like Brickfields development; communities that have active
sports instructors for the young people and have sufficient number of trained
professionals that assist with career guidance for learners and students.
need these communities that have social workers that are ready and able to help
our people with whatever challenges that they face. Together we should create
communities where teachers, priests and other community leaders are not afraid
to lead our people into a better future.
Indeed, I would like all of us,
as we engage in these important programmes of housing developments, to 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 and Vuk'zenzele.
demonstrates that it is possible to regenerate the inner cities and avoid the
resort to unscrupulous, fly-by-night operations similar to some of those that
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.
I understand that some of these
criminals are even brazen in their criminal activities to the extent that they
even resort to murder so as to hijack buildings in order to extort money from
our people. I would like the city mayor, working with the police, to attend urgently
to this matter.
I am told today that the Minister of Housing and the MEC
for Housing in Gauteng will be handing over 12 houses built for women in Protea
Glen, Soweto through collaboration between government, Women in Housing, Habitat
for Housing and the private sector. This is important as it continues the work
that women have been doing to build their own homes since the democratic government
came into place.
It is also very important because it happens during the
Women's Month in which we celebrate and honour the contribution that women made
to bring us freedom.
Clearly, we have a duty together to strengthen these
programmes and improve our partnerships so that we are able to build 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
I am indeed delighted to officially open the Brickfields Housing
Development. I am confident that it will inspire many more public/private partnerships
for the renewal of our cities across South Africa and indeed across our continent
so that we may truly build a better world for all who live in it.
Issued by The Presidency
Private Bag X1000