Johannesburg- South Africa (PANA) -- South African President Thabo Mbeki Friday called for an end to development of cities designated exclusively for the rich or the poor in the country, warning that the practice could re-enact racial and class divisions of the apartheid era.
Opening the Brickfields housing project at the Newtown cultural precinct in Johannesburg, he regretted that while government had eradicated apartheid laws, there was still a perpetuation of settlement patterns along racial, gender and class divisions.
"Undoubtedly, to truly realise the noble ideas of the Freedom Charter, we need to move faster towards new cities where we are able to use housing to integrate our communities so that we should no longer have parts of our cities designated exclusively for the rich and others for the poor.
This, we must bring to a speedy end," Mbeki stressed.
"To succeed in this task," he said, "we have, among others, an urgent challenge of bringing to a stop the pro-rich housing development strategies that ensure that the best located land that is close to all the best facilities is always available to the rich; a situation where the best land is allocated especially to create gated communities and golf estates, while the poor can only access dusty semi-developed land far away from modern infrastructure.
" The South African leader also accused some unscrupulous businessmen in the country of only being interested in making as much money as possible out of the desperation of people for shelter.
"I understand that some of these criminals are even brazen in their criminal activities to the extent that they even resort to murder so as to hijack buildings in order to extort money from our people," Mbeki charged.
Brickfields, a dormitory for the mining industry in the 19th century, became in 1890, a multicultural slum area for immigrants from Europe, China and India, the Cape Malays and local Africans.
It soon emerged a central driving force of South Africa's liberation struggle but was destroyed in 1905 when Africans were forcibly removed and the area became a wasteland.
Mbeki described the new Brickfields housing project as "a tangible expression of how the worldwide phenomenon of decaying inner cities, can, through sustainable urbanisation, be transformed into peaceful, better havens and friendly neighbourhoods.