Together let's build rural areas

Nineteen years of democracy was never going to be enough to reverse the legacy of apartheid and colonialism built over many centuries. Its impact will remain with us for a long time as evidenced by the massive social inequalities that continue to pervade all areas of life in our society.

However, although there is still a long road to go, we have seen notable progress in reversing this legacy which manifests itself in the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. As we look back today on the journey we have travelled since 1994, we can safely say South Africa has changed for better. We are a constitutional democracy and the citizens are free to elect a government of their choice every five years through elections.

We have also made huge strides towards alleviating poverty through social grants and the provision of basic services like running water, electricity, housing, sanitation, education, healthcare and electricity. However, despite these visible successes and achievements, government has long recognised the need to put greater detail and emphasis on the development of rural areas to ensure they also enjoy the same benefits.

To achieve this goal, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform in 2009 introduced the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme (CRDP), to ensure that the constitutionally promised better life for all becomes a reality. The CRDP is strategic priority number three within the government’s current Medium Term Strategic Framework.

It is aimed at improving the standards of living and welfare of people living in rural areas through the provision of basic services, support the small, medium and macro-enterprises development and village industrialisation. The vision for the department is to create vibrant, equitable and sustainable rural communities. An integral part of CRDP agenda is an integrated programme of rural development, land reform and agrarian change, with a strategic focus on social cohesion and development.

It is now four years since the programme was introduced and the department aims to significantly increase the rollout throughout South Africa by the year next year. Muyexe Village in the Greater Giyani Local Municipality in Limpopo became the first pilot project for the programme when President Jacob Zuma launched it in 2009.

Speaking to the residents to the resident of the village at the time President Zuma stressed the importance of making sure that being born in a rural area did not limit an individual from realising his or her full potential.

“Our vision for the development of rural areas arises from the fact that people in the rural areas also have a right to basic necessities,’’ he said.

“They have a right to electricity, water, flush toilets, roads, entertainment and sport centres. They have a right to shopping centres, good schools and other amenities like their compatriots in urban areas. They too have a right to be helped with farming so that they can grow vegetables and raise livestock so that they can feed their families.”

Last week the President visited Muyexe as part of the Siyahlola Presidential Monitoring programme to assess progress on the implementation of various service delivery initiatives. He conducted site visits to a number of projects in the area, namely the Muyexe Early Childhood Development Centre, Macena Gardens and the Muyexe Water Purification Plant and Reservoir.

In comparison to what the area was like before the government intervened in 2009, President Zuma noted the progress made thus far, especially with early childhood development programmes, housing, community gardens and ablution facilities.

He visited project where the Department of Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform have constructed 383 houses, including 422 toilets each school, with 130 more toilets still under construction for the new households.

Water supply will be increased through 26 boreholes to be drilled in the area. The primary school was also provided with four classrooms and the secondary school was also provided with computers, projector and big screen to enhance learning processes. The Macena cooperative has grown significantly from small non-commercial venture to a big enterprise selling to the local market and to the Spar supermarket in Giyani.

President Zuma also stressed that more needed to be done to ensure that all projects were completed. He said the government would use lessons that we will use when we go other rural areas.

“We are looking forward to taking this programme to other areas. The Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform has said that this project has taught us several lessons that we will use when we go to other rural areas,” he said.

The government has prioritized improving the provision of basics services in rural areas in order to realize a better life for all. CRDP is the government’s response to a legacy that saw the forced removal of people from rural areas when their land was taken, which forced them to leave their home s to seek employment in urban areas.

Without land people were no longer able to sustain their livelihoods from agriculture. The continued success of the CRDP relies heavily on the full participation of the community. We call on all communities to work together with government to make it a success. Working together we must do more to improve the quality of life in rural areas.

Phumla Williams is acting CEO of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS)

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