Johannesburg – Last week Sunday, the President and Commander in Chief of the Economic Freedom Fighters, Julius Malema, proposed to identify land in Sandton and build low-cost housing in the area, should the EFF take over the city of Johannesburg in the upcoming Local Government elections.
The commitment made should be lauded as a revolutionary proposal as it is a step in transforming the geographical mapping of South Africa and ultimately bridging the poverty and wealth divide which has plagued the country for far too long. For the time has come for a shared economic future.
South Africa remains the most unequal society in the world and inequalities have been laid bare by the COVID-19 period as disparities between those living in the rural, urban and township areas have been highlighted by the pandemic.
The EFF through its people’s Manifesto, outlined its plan of redressing existing urban realities. For the geographical landscape produced by apartheid has not been easy to replace, with transformation on all fronts proving to be painfully slow.
Throughout the country, affluent urban areas such as Sandton, outpace their township counterparts in various developmental aspects, whether it be in relation to economic development, service delivery, education, transport or provision of basic services.
As resources and basic services continue to be allocated in the city center, in high rate paying suburbs. This continues to occur despite extensive discussions and promises around inequality which have been made by the ruling party.
However, the vision of the EFF in redressing urban realities, has since its inception been consistent.
It is for black people to reclaim public spaces and build in areas which will see our people fully participate in the economy, living alongside one another, both rich and poor.
Through reclaiming land, occupying vacant buildings, rebuilding the city center by building low-cost housing in affluent suburbs, the EFF seeks to build dignified homes for black people.
Bridging the economic gap between township and urban areas requires an organization which understands and is willing to interrogate the relationship between the two.
The EFF offers an alternative model to the issue of spatiality which has been lacking in political discourse.
It answers a call of workers, domestic workers, nurses, drivers, mineworkers to be accommodated close to areas where they work rather than being placed in distant areas away from the city center.
This is an approach which has for a period of more than two decades been left unexplored and not tapped into.
For the disillusioned ruling party, discussions concerning the spatial reality of South African municipalities continues to be centered around the history of apartheid, where thousands of black people were removed over the years to segregated areas as a means of providing services exclusively to the white minority.
The ruling party continues to prescribe to the narrative that townships are legacies of colonial and apartheid era and are as a result are difficult to reform. And today, two decades into democracy, we are still witnessing continuities in how townships are planned and built.
When the ANC was elected into government in 1994, its main objective was to improve housing development. But they have been unable to keep up with the demand for continual development which is required for the growing South African society.
The black majority in Johannesburg still lives in matchbox houses and in overcrowded townships which continue to be built on the outskirts of town, away from the city center, where service delivery and development occurs at a slow pace in comparison to what is witnessed in urban areas.
Local governments have failed to provide for townships the type of services and relief measures envisioned for a reconciled society such as ours.
Omphile Maotwe is the Treasurer-General of the Economic Freedom Fighters and EFF Member of Parliament.
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