An answer to Mr Turok on what Mega Projects will do to our cities, writes Ndivhuwo Mabaya
Ivan Turok essay on mega projects is based on his understanding of the pre 2004 housing policy, media sound bites, gossips and street research. Among the tools he could have used to best understand the new approach to introduce MegaProjects is the Comprehensive Plan for Development of Sustainable Human Settlements known in the human settlement sector since its approval by Cabinet in 2004 as Breaking New Ground or BNG. The draft white paper on human settlements and presentations are available for free on www.dhs.gov.za.
It is regrettable that he set out to write a very long essay about Mega Projects without reading or let alone understanding the fundamental principles and objective/s of Mega Projects. It is also a sign of bad research or laziness to selectively quote a document to fit pre conceived ideologies.
In 2004 the South African Cabinet in adopting BNG as a national policy laid the foundation for the journey from building houses to building integrated human settlements. In that journey Cabinet said the Department of Human Settlements must ensure that going forward all projects must promote densification and integration of different income groups and different races, enhance spatial planning, be located in well suitable land, support urban renewal and inner city regeneration and enhance the quality of the house whilst developing social and economic infrastructure.
To pilot this policy, a number of pilot projects were launched in 2005 across all major cities in carefully researched land in Johannesburg, Cosmo City and Fleurhof, Tshwane Olivenbouschhof. In the City of Cape Town the Award winning N2 Gateway Housing Project was also launched.
All these projects were guided by the four key principles of planning, integration of the rich and poor, location to be close to economic and social amenities, sustainability in terms of energy mix and inclusion of different typologies like rental, social housing, bonded houses and different forms of government subsidised houses for those who earn between R0.00 and R3500.00, the size of a new BNG house must be 40sqm (minimum) and those who earn above R3500.00 a subsidy for new home owners called FLISP.
Fast track to 2016, the pilot projects launched in 2005 has achieved what can be classified as a miracle. They have shocked many like Mr Turok who never believed in the Government policy and its vision in 2004. They never believed that unlike in the apartheid South Africa in the new South Africa a Government can lead the nation in building new communities. Cosmo City is a new growing suburb. Properties developed for R90.000 in 2004 are being sold in the market for over R350.000, Cosmo City industrial and commercial assets are trading and expanding, and phase 2 of the Cosmo City has just been launched and is doing very well. The Cosmo City is an example of a Government that had a brilliant foresight, a leadership that understood spatial planning better than many experts and professors, supported by Developers like Basil Read and First National Bank (FNB) and the results are there for everyone to see including Mr Turok.
Olivenbouschhof is a few Kilometres from Cosmo City, Mr Turok can do himself and some of his junior researchers well to also visit this growing suburb. This informal settlement upgrade Programme launched in 2005 financed and supported by ABSA bank has integrated poor people to the previously white privileged area of Centurion. The project is so successful that new private sector projects where properties are selling for over R500.000 have been completed and new ones being launched. A new state of the art mall has just opened across the road, creating jobs and servicing both Oliven and centurion communities. At Oliven houses built in 2004 for R90.000 have become powerful economic assets for the poor. They are using them to secure credits for their kids to go to school and to start small business.
The N2 Gateway Housing Project in the City of Cape Town with all its related and much expected political problems has delivered over 14 000 units since 2004 with the remaining 6000 to be completed by 2019 providing shelter to over 80 000 people, a big achievement in any scale. The project which covers five building sites, Langa, New Rest, Phillip, Boys Town and Delft has transformed the slum of Langa into a new town, the sand dunes of Delft into playground and new homes. We are very proud of what has been achieved. The slums of Langa have been integrated with the old white towns and the property is booming and the new owners who just received over 2000 title deeds in December 2015 have assets they can use to propel themselves and their families out of poverty.
In 2004 pilot projects were launched in all nine cities or provincial capitals, they are of different scales but they have proved one thing in common, that the new policy of building new suburbs through mega projects is sustainable and is the best model to integrate communities, the poor and the rich, integrate people of different income and races, but most importantly bring the poor close to economic and social opportunities.
It is strange that Mr Turok goes out of his way not to say that children in Cosmo City have five schools to choose from, a very viable shopping complex, a booming industrial area and a new mall coming. He also ignores that they cycle or walk to Lanseria industrial area and many other economic opportunities around.
He also chooses to ignore that in Alexandra Extension 7, the poor communities rescued from annual fires in Alexandra informal settlements not only have a roof over their heads, but also solar energy to support the Eskom grid, but most important they walk to N3 Industrial area,they walk or cycle to Sandton and Gautrain has just build a new station there, the Marlboro station.
The Government approach to MegaProjects is guided by the success of the likes of Cosmo City, Fleurhof and Oliven in Gauteng, the N2 Gateway Housing Project in the City of Cape Town, Cornubia in Durban which has just been announced as the Athletic Village for 2020 Commonwealth Games to be held in South Africa. Cornubia is also located few kilometres from the King Shaka International Airport and Mhlanga Rocks suburbs. The Project Industrial area is home to some of the biggest courier companies in Kwazulu Natal.
In her recent visit to Cornubia Minister of Human Settlements, Lindiwe Sisulu, noted the contribution of the private sector into government projects. "On behalf of Government we welcome the vote of confidence in our policies by private sector companies like Blindsmart, Bidvest, Cargo Compass, Redefine, Zenprop who have chosen Cornubia industrial area as their new home. They join others like Basil Read, Carlgro M3, Group Five, FNB, ABSA, Standard Bank, Old Mutual and Nedbank who have been with us since 2004. Together we can make South Africa better", said Sisulu.
To ensure a fair and transparent process on Catalytic projects, Government went out to call on private developers to submit their potential projects for consideration and financial support. Over 300 bankable projects were submitted both by the private sector and Government. It is estimated that the implementation of mega projects will see the Government investment of close to R100 Billion over five to ten years period through subsidy to bulk services and BNG houses top structure. The Government investment will trigger over R300 Billion of private sector investment through commercial property funding, bonds and development finance. Catalytic Projects are catalyst for economic development and spatial planning. All submitted and short listed projects are located in well located land viable for the private sector to invest through malls and bonded houses.
All the submissions we received from both the Private Sector and Government are of integrated human settlements or extensions of existing projects launched after 2004 with both government subsidised homes, bonded homes, shopping complex, proposed schools, proposed industrial areas and many other social and economic amenities.
We dismiss this irresponsible generalization by Mr Turok assertion that Catalytic Projects will build slums of rows of houses. He is so stuck in pre 2004 that he is not even aware that the Department is currently consulting stakeholders on a new White Paper for Human Settlements to replace the Housing Act of 1997. The White Paper on Human Settlements bring into life the principle of BNG and the reality that South Africa will never build rows and rows of housing again but new suburbs, new projects big and small close to economic and social amenities.
Mr Turok tells himself regularly maybe based on gossips that the Catalytic Projects approach to human settlements is not supported by Treasury and some other unknown people. We invite him to read the DHS medium term strategic framework (MTSF) also available on our website, www.dhs.gov.za, maybe only then he will realise that sometimes gossips are not true.
It is beyond sad that in his essay Mr Turok ignored a lot of publicly available facts so that he can drive his point home, but it is more strange that he chose to deliberately ignore Minister Sisulu’s call that all Catalytic Projects must absorb unskilled youth, train them under the National Youth Brigade Programme and develop them into future builders and many other skills required in a building site. He also chose to ignore Minister’s commitment that big developers will have to work with small contractors like they are doing at Walmer in Port Elizabeth where beautiful houses were handed over in December 2015. He also ignored the commitment by the Minister and human settlements MECs that all projects must also prioritise military veterans and the elderly.