Poor Afrikaners turn to Zuma

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pretoria - Poor Afrikaners living at an informal settlement outside Pretoria have pinned their hopes for service delivery on President Jacob Zuma following his visit to the area on Tuesday.

Zuma, who had last visited the area in July 2008, addressed an estimated 2000 residents from the Bethlehem informal settlement. They had previously raised issues relating to housing, medical care, social security and unemployment.

"Our constitution guarantees that government services will be provided to all South Africans irrespective of race, religion or creed. Service delivery has no colour," Zuma said.

Accompanied by at least six of his ministers and provincial MECs, Zuma said his government will not rest for as long there were poor people who suffer "the indignity of poverty" irrespective of their race.

He said he had decided to bring the ministers so that residents could engage them personally "without me having to deliver messages for you".

"As I said before, I will never hide behind any policies or reports, I want to hear it first hand," he said to loud applause from the group mainly made up of elderly people.

Zuma said he was aware that since his last visit, the City of Tshwane has made available a mobile health clinic that provides services to the community on a monthly basis.

"The South African Social Security Agency is also present here to register all who qualify for social grants, premier (Nomvula Mokonyane) and mayor (Gwen Ramokgopa) have also seen the area, and will be able to provide services from their portfolios," he said.

Ramokgopa also announced that since the president's visit to the informal settlement, more than 47 households have been registered as indigents, meaning they do not have to pay for a proportion of municipal electricity and water.

The people of this community are among thousands of white South Africans who are said to be living in dire poverty across the country.

Derik Herman of trade union Solidarity accused government of neglecting poor white people and of applying reverse racism through policies such as the Black Economic Empowerment and Affirmative Action.

But Zuma said respecting the right of all citizens, including minorities, is an indisputable policy of government. After 1994, government had to move quickly to improve governance and service delivery and also to ensure that it brought South Africans together around a new democratic order.

"We have done well since then. But now we must make social cohesion a top priority. We must have a national discussion on a common heritage as we must reach a common understanding and tolerance of one another's culture and history based on a thorough discussion and consensus," said Zuma.