Despite the encouraging words from the first president of the democratic South Africa on the challenge of housing prior to 1994 and promises for the new era, the country is still far from addressing the housing question. By SIPHIWE SEGODI.
At the rally in Soccer City stadium, few days after his release, Nelson Mandela made important remarks regarding housing during his speech. He stated that when his party assumed power government would build better houses, and not the "match-boxes" that the apartheid government built for Africans in townships in particular.
This statement gave hope to millions of previously marginalised communities. However, after two decades of democracy, many informal settlements residents lack access to decent shelter and tenure security. Thembelihle is an informal settlement in the City of Johannesburg (CoJ) comprising 7,000 households which has been engaged in a struggle to change the situation. While it would be unfair to completely disregard efforts made by government to address the housing problem since then, indications are that the country seem to be fighting a losing battle. What has been the government's approach to the challenge? How have the marginalised communities responded? The experience of Thembelihle provides insights into these questions.