Statement by the Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, Ms Zou Kota-Fredericks on the occasion of World Habitat Day, Oudtshoorn
4 Oct 2010
Today marks World Habitat Day, providing us with an opportunity to celebrate the many advantages cities bring for humanity and development, but also to reflect on the severe challenges that we face in cities.
These challenges are especially profound for the poor. With over half the world’s people living in cities and a billion people world-wide living in slums, we must acknowledge unequivocally that we have to vigorously and purposefully tackle our urban crisis and make our cities more liveable for the poor.
Cities are for many a beacon of hope. A hope for better health, a hope for better education, a hope for jobs, a hope for a better life for ourselves and for our children. “Better city, better life” is the theme of this year’s World Habitat Day and also the slogan reflecting this hope of ours. How do we imagine this city for a better life?
In South Africa we want our cities to be places where people can have access to jobs and economic opportunities, to education for their children, to healthcare, to shelter, to water, to sanitation, to electricity. Beyond that we strive for cities where children can play, where all people can walk and stay safely, where we can feel at home. Where we can play sport, enjoy art, and socialise with our friends and neighbours.
How will we go about achieving this vision? How will we improve our people’s quality of life? For the 1.2 million South Africans living in the 2 700 informal settlements throughout the country, we are embarking on a systematic programme of upgrading informal settlements to prioritise their access to secure tenure, water, sanitation and electricity. These major improvements will go a long way to restoring people’s dignity.
Secondly, we must narrow the distances between where people stay and where people work. This means the way in which we view cities has to change fundamentally. Gone are the days of endless urban sprawl with row after row after row of houses as far as the eye can see. Our new cities have to make better use of denser spaces, and provide many more apartments and rental units in well-located areas, close to places of work.
This changes the economic and social dynamics of cities of racial and economic segregation to cities of inclusion and integration. Through prioritising rental housing while not forgetting the sports and recreation facilities, parks and playgrounds, we will be able to create healthy living spaces.
I think the time has come for a deep reflection on our urban challenges and for us to ask ourselves what will each and every one of us do to improve the quality of our cities and our lives. What role will government play? What role will companies play? What role will civil society and community groups, academics, planners, and researchers play? What role will we as individuals play to shape our cities and create the ‘better city, better life’?
I thank you.
Source: Department of Human Settlements
Issued by: Department of Human Settlements
4 Oct 2010
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