Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

Reconstruction and Development Program

South Africa’s Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP) was first initiated in 1994 by the African National Congress (ANC).  Its purpose was to address some of the massive housing inequalities resulting from apartheid policies.

Essentially, the state took it upon itself to build lots of house for poor people.  Lots and lots of houses.

The program has had many criticisms.  First, there are simply too many slums for the state to replace.  It’s too big a job for the government to undertake alone.

Second, the politicians promised too much.  Arguably, too many poor people now feel entitled to a decent house without having to work for it.

Third, the houses aren’t even decent.  They’re usually better than self-built slums, but not by much.  The units that were recently built in Fleurhof don’t have hot water and the “sink” is a bucket.

The government recognizes the problems associated with RDP and recently changed its name to Breaking New Ground (BNG).  BNG is supposed to a new program that deals with the lessons learned from RDP’s failures.

Unfortunately, the new Fleurhof units are technically BNG but they look just like the ones built under RDP.  Yet the government claims to have moved past those inadequacies.  As the Minister of Human Settlement, Tokyo Sexwale, proclaimed after giving away three units, “Breaking New Ground will help us build a better South Africa.  And look at these houses!  The ground has been broken!”*

*The above is not an exact quote.  But his words were something similar.


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