Monday, September 21, 2009

"District 9" puts spotlight on South Africa's housing crisis

The age of entitlement.

Global Post

Soweto, South Africa — For Solomon Baloyi, acting as an extra in the sci-fi film "District 9" wasn’t much of a stretch.

Baloyi played a security guard tasked with evicting aliens from their squalid shacks. In real life, he lives in that neighborhood. In fact, one of the helicopter scenes was shot in the clearing next to his makeshift house, in between the mounds of trash, scrub and tin shacks that make up the Chiawelo area of Soweto.

"District 9" is now a box office hit and images of Chiawelo have been seen by moviegoers around the world. The movie's sweeping shots of the grim, grimy areas that are cordoned off for the aliens have inadvertently drawn attention to South Africa's housing crisis. Fifteen years after apartheid, millions of black South Africans still live in squatter camps and are growing impatient for better living conditions.

In "District 9" Chiawelo is depicted as a place so dire that it is only fit for alien refugees who landed in Johannesburg from another planet. But for Baloyi, 47, it is the place where he has lived since 1987 when he built the tiny home from scraps and crumbling bricks.

“This place has been a nightmare,” said Baloyi of his neighborhood, not the movie. “There has been a lot of violence and also even children have been raped. Because of poverty people fight amongst each other.”

Baloyi and his neighbors see the irony of living in what was shown in the movie as only habitable for aliens, they say they feel lucky. They believe that the success of "District 9" will draw attention to the conditions they live in and put pressure on the South African government to help.

“My house is terrible … just look at this thing,” Baloyi said. Five people including an infant live in one room behind crumbling walls and broken windows repaired with plastic bags and packing tape.
Cloth rags are stuffed into the crack under the front door, which has been hung upside down.

“The rags prevent the rats from coming in,” explained Baloyi. “There are many rats here. Big ones, just like a cat! They can kill you also, while you are sleeping.”

"District 9," directed by South African native Neill Blomkamp, has reached blockbuster status with its mix of science fiction and themes drawn from the country’s apartheid history, as well as the more recent xenophobic violence in South Africa’s townships. The $30-million film has grossed more than $90 million so far and topped the U.S. box office on its opening weekend before going on to success worldwide.

“The film has actually brought some development in our lives,” said Baloyi. “The department of housing had forgotten about us. But after the film everyone is paying attention to how we live.”

But Balyoi is still waiting for his family to be moved into the government-subsidized housing that is provided for South Africa’s poorest citizens. There are long waiting lists for the brick, three-room “RDP houses,” nicknamed after the government’s “reconstruction and development program” that is providing them.

Since apartheid ended in 1994, the government has provided an estimated 1.1 million brick dwellings with running water, electricity and secure tenure for 5 million black South Africans. But the backlog of people needing decent housing is so great that a further 2 million to 3 million houses must be built, according to government figures.

“They said they were going to move us but now we have lost our hope,” Baloyi said. “We’ll see what happens, when it happens."

Another Chiawelo resident, Thabang Thusi, 23, watched his neighbors move into government houses but is still waiting for his own. He has lived in his tin shack for 16 years — first with his parents, but after they died, alone — and has been waiting for years to be moved but says he can’t afford to pay a bribe to speed up the process. His mother was on a waiting list for five years but died before she was allocated a house.

Thusi’s shack stands in an area surrounded by the rubble of torn-down homes. There used to be many more shacks in the area, as seen in the crowded slum scenes in "District 9." But many of the former residents have since been moved into “RDP houses” and their shacks removed.

"District 9" director Blomkamp said that Chiawelo residents began moving out of their shacks while the filming of "District 9" was still underway. This was a problem because Blomkamp wanted to show many shacks in certain scenes of the movie. As soon as residents moved out, others quickly dismantled the abandoned shacks to salvage the sheets of metal for use on their own homes. Blomkamp had to erect fences to preserve the shanties for the movie's scenes.
“So we ended up with this open piece of land with all these shacks on it,” Blomkamp said. “And the shacks would have been swept away very quickly if we hadn’t put up a fence to try and preserve them — in that part of the city everything just gets reused all the time.”

Thusi, who was hired by the "District 9" film crew to cut grass — many local residents were given small jobs on the shoot — hopes that he will be in the next group to be moved and will for the first time in his life have a proper home.

“It’s very hard to live here because this shack is not stable,” he said. “When it’s raining, the water gets inside. The shack gets surrounded on the outside by water and it’s always difficult to survive. It’s not conducive to a healthy environment.”

8 Opinion(s):

The Rooster said...

1.1 million houses have been built ? Wow, pretty good going. That's 1.1 million more than would have been if the whites were still in charge.

Francois said...

I really don't have any sympathy for these people living in the squatter camps if they still live there after 15 years.

In 15 years of AA and BEE you have to ask if this was such a good idea if they still live in them. Well, what do you expect if the Government promises you a free house. Are you really going to try so hard to find a job and then pay rent / levy's in a Suburb?

What the Government should have done after 94 is to sell the oil reserves in order to purchase business being sold instead of supplying free houses. They could have used that money (probably billions of rands) to purchase small businesses from a willing seller and then employ only Blacks (thus solving AA / BEE / Unemployment / Poverty), these new employees (all black businesses) receive salaries and can now afford to pay taxes, therefore they can now also support their themselves and their struggling comrades stuck in the townships.

Do the calculation, if the ANC bought about 1500 business in SA per year, that's 22500 business in 15 years. If the new Black owners (according to ANC Standards) employ around 70 people per small business, they would have created jobs for 1.57 million blacks that could have contributed to taxes and the economy. Now tax each of those people just R500 per month and you have an additional revenue of R787 million over 15 years, not to mention the amount made on consumables where you are taxed 14% on everything you purchase. Can you imagine where SA would have been now and how poverty and housing would be and an exceptional minimum after 15 years. Not to mention how many Government contracts these totally Black companies could have got and how many additional black staff they could have employed after the first 2 years.

If above plan was introduced back in 94, we would not need to have AA or BEE policies, no need for Gov to spend billions on housing projects and watch dogs to see how the white business complies with ANC policies. Black get their business, they can employ their tjoma's and more people would be helping to build the country and not just the "evil white settler". But no, the Gov forces white business to employ blacks, then they tax us to the maximum to support those in the townships and building them free houses and we are then fined because we do not have enough Blacks employed. Speak about "who is extending the helping hand in the country" and "who are the ones just sitting back, relaxing and smiling because he gets a free house and Gov support though grants and welfare".

We are the ones that should get restless, not them because we are currently the only ones building the country while they constantly strike for jobs, houses, money and salaries. This is what happens to a nation when the majority expects everything is going to be given to them for free instead of working towards a better life.

Viking said...

More than 2.4 million houses have in fact been built.
Rather than validate your snide remarks, however, it should be remembered that governments should not be in the business of building houses for citizens at all.

(In Ireland in the dark days of the 19th century you had to find a patch of land and a cow (seriously!) and the government would built you a house. My father lives in one such.)

Will you work for free one day a week to help built a RDP house?
Thought not.

The issue is NOT that there are not enough houses, but that they are not built in the place where their new owners would like them to be.
My previous housekeeper has THREE houses - one shack and two RDP homes, because she keeps moving around!
The government is trying desperately to build homes in the rural areas, but the blacks want to flood the urban areas that already exist and expect the state to keep up with them.
The reality is that they want to live in YOUR back yard and not necessarily to work.

The other issue is that, to put it politely, families are growing at a faster rate than they can be housed.

And, as far as i know, although am prepared to be corrected on this point, the "old" government did build many houses for blacks.

(I am also doing some research right now on emancipated slaves in 1834, many of whom were given land and houses by their former owners.)

Francois said...

@ Rooster - The new gov is just as bad as the old one because they tend to reverse rolls when in Gov. The old Gov "oppressed" black and supposedly gave them little opportunity. But if the blacks studied instead of burning down their schools we might have a Gov that actually works today. The new Gov is doing the exact same thing at the previous Gov, in that they still have racist policies in place to give Blacks (and only Blacks, not Colouredes / Indians / Chinese) more opportunities that any other race group in SA, but still only "punish" a small part of the minority to support the majority.

If the current Gov maybe applied a plan like I stated earlier where they purchased businesses for sale over the past 15 years and actually helped with the building of the country and not make it the sole responsibility of the rich white man than we would not be facing so much poverty and as quoted by a minister "an upcoming revolution from the blacks".

No matter how much to argue this fact, the minority race (mostly whites) are made responsible for supporting the majority race (mostly blacks) and this a one sided "helping hand towards building the country". If the Gov made the Black man a bit more responsible for his / her own life instead of just making it the WHITE man's problem, than we might have had "helping hands in building" instead of just a helping hand.

Building a country is the responsibilty of all it's people, and not just a small part of the population where a minority group has to support a majority group. SA is what they call a WELFARE state simply due to this fact. Gov is part of the old regime problems and until the new generation realizes this, we are all doomed and will always be a welfare state. Then again, we have idiot youth leaders like Malema who constantly blame WHITE people for all SA's problems instead of preaching WORKING TOGETHER solve both.

Unfortuantely, the Black man is stuck in Apartheid mode and thinks WHITES should be the only responsible party to make SA work, and this has been forced upon us since 94, thus creating what we face today.

I suspect if we have a new White / Black leader that follows these views, we will actually start to grow as a nation where every body helps and not just few, that we would all live better lives. But the ANC is still only "taxing" the White folk to the max and the Black folk to the min (when they are taxed) and this is the problem.


@ Francois

The old government - however lacking and inperfect - was at least smart enough to manage our borders.
Do not place our present incompetent,corrupt ANC gang at the same level please.

Viking said...

well said.

The whole of Africa is a welfare state!

Anonymous said...

@ Francois - you need to speak s_l_o_w_l_y as people like Rooster won't understand you. You make too many valid points and point out a simple plan - but that's unfortunately not what the government wants. The ANC have what they want - a corrupt, crime infested, uneducated population that they can easily manipulate with the MSM and fear of the white man. This will keep them in power - not a working country....If only it was as simple as actually implementing things that would work!

Francois said...

@ whiteadder - What I meant was that the new and old gov have reversed roles in this regard of only making a small minority responsible for a majority population.

I don't like the ANC, not did I ever say Apartheid was correct. The thing is if we started this project about 40 years ago we will not be in this situation now. The old Government (new Gov as well) could have benefited greatly from such a plan in that they actually developed the natives to the point where they supported themselves (was that not the idea of separate development) as well as making contributions towards the economy of the country. The same thing is happening with the new gov, they are only looking after a certain part of the population and not every one, this making the same mistakes.

See it a an investment opportunity, if you don't look after it, you will loose everything. The old Gov didn't look after the blacks, thus they lost the country, the new Gov is looking after the white tax payers, thus millions immigrate and they loose tax! See where this going?