The Better Living Challenge project aims to assist residents with self-build skills and knowledge, which can be used to build better structures in informal settlements. Picture: Western Cape government
The Better Living Challenge project aims to assist residents with self-build skills and knowledge, which can be used to build better structures in informal settlements. Picture: Western Cape government

Western Cape’s Better Living Challenge slammed for 'glorifying people’s poverty'

By Theolin Tembo Time of article published Aug 11, 2021

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Cape Town - The Western Cape government has been slammed for its recent housing challenge, which has been called “a glorification of people’s poverty” and “quite disgusting”.

The Western Cape Department of Human Settlements’ Better Living Challenge (BLC) project was unveiled on social media on Tuesday, and has sparked an online fury.

The BLC is one of the Western Cape government’s projects, hosted by the Department of Human Settlements and the Department of Economic Affairs and Tourism.

The project aims to assist residents with self-build skills and knowledge, which can be used to build better structures in informal settlements.

The BLC developed a 13-part video series to help residents of informal settlements gain a better understanding of topics such as layout, foundations and building double-storey structures.

Good Party secretary-general Brett Herron said the idea of the BLC not being about better housing, but how to build a better shack, was shocking.

“The Western Cape government is exposing itself as out of touch with the reality of the poverty and the conditions in informal settlements.

“Communicating on how to build a nice shack is quite disgusting and is defeatist.”

Provincial Department of Human Settlements spokesperson Muneera Allie said the BLC initiative was intended for:

  • Residents already living within informal settlements to assist them to build safer structures and also upgrade their shelter utilising all the principles from the tutorials/video series.
  • Residents who received Serviced Sites from government and were required to build their own structures. A Serviced Site is a piece of land with access to basic services such as water, electricity and sanitation/toilet.
  • Small scale builders assisting residents in informal areas.

Western Cape EFF chairperson Melikhaya Xego said the BLC was “a glorification of peoples poverty”, because there were no better living conditions in shacks.

“This is a clear demonstration that the Western Cape government has lost interest and touch with the ongoing pain of the people. Instead of providing proper brick houses, they promise shacks in order to perpetuate the cycle of trauma and despair.

“It is an insult to our masses. A better programme to equip them can be sourced. On the other hand, this is what our people temporarily resort to because of the situation they find themselves in perpetuated by the Western Cape government.

“It begs the question, where are they expecting people to build these, since they demolish people’s homes on a weekly basis?

“So, now we’ll teach people to build them, but not give them land to build on. This is an insult to our people’s intelligence. This is a spit in the face of the vulnerable black people of the Western Cape.”

Said Allie: "The 13-part video series is but one of the initiatives under the Better Living Challenge, aimed at creating awareness on fundamental building principles that will ultimately lead to safer building structures. It has thus far assisted many community members and stakeholders.“

"The initiative has also assisted informal settlements stakeholders including NGOs to capacitate communities on the building tutorials. Many informal settlement residents expressed the need and preference for a piece of land that they own, with access to basic services – so they can attend to their own building.

“This initiative was created based on feedback and input from informal settlement communities, and in response to their requests and needs. Many have found it very useful and we thus wanted to assist as many as possible with similar challenges – to in the very least build a safer structure,” Allie said.

“The initiative is in no way intended to encourage the establishment of informal areas, but to assist residents, often living in unsafe conditions to improve the quality of their homes, that will also improve their living conditions.”

In January, Human Settlements MEC Tertuis Simmers revealed there were 595 232 applicants on the Housing Demand Database: 369 542 in the metro and 225 690 applicants outside of the metro.

The Western Cape Department of Human Settlements had delivered 16 217 houses in the 2019/20 financial year, 20 040 in the 2018/19 financial year and 19 985 in the 2017/18 financial year.

Social media also weighed in, with many slamming the provincial government.

Cape Argus

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