President Jacob Zuma, who is in the province as part of a service delivery monitoring campaign, visited the projects on Tuesday where he encouraged the department to roll out the scheme to other poor communities in the area.
The Free State was the third province to be visited by Zuma following his tour Limpopo and the Eastern Cape where he assessed health and education in the provinces.
Earlier Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane told BuaNews that the visits had helped Zuma to figure what was working and what was not in the delivery of services. “For instance in the Eastern Cape we were able to ascertain what the cause of problems there when it comes to education and other matters. Our interaction with the people is assisting the President and us to figure out exactly how to respond,” said Chabane.
The 74 square meter houses in Diyatalawa replaced the dilapidated mud structures that were previously occupied by the residents in the area and are all fitted with solar energy which comes handy for those who would otherwise not afford electricity.
Moloi, who was among the first beneficiaries on the projects, told BuaNews during the visit to the house that apart from the fact that she was now able to fit more furniture into the new house, her children were now able to do their school work in the comfort of their own rooms.
“The house has more space and it has really changed a lot of things for us and we can now proudly say we have a home since we received it,” said Moloi.
“Considering where we are coming from, we cannot ask for anything better, this is just perfect for us and we couldn’t be happier,” she said.
For 68-year-old Winnie Mokoena the bigger house has meant that she can now invite family members to come visit her home. “I was very happy when I finally had a house of my own that is this big, it’s a dream come true for me and my children I cannot express the joy I felt,” Mokoena said.
Rural Development MEC in the Free State Mosebenzi Zwane told Zuma that authorities were now in the process of attaining an electricity substation in the area to back the solar energy system which was in most cases unable to meet the community’s energy needs.
“The solar that is there can only cater for lighting if people want to do other things they can’t so we are attending to that we are speaking to Eskom about it,” he said.
The area of Diyatalawa was identified as one of the pilot sites in the province for the governments nationwide Comprehensive Rural Development Programme (CRDP).
Other projects in the area include poultry and cattle farming which authorities are hoping will be able to alleviate the scourge of unemployment and underdevelopment.
On Tuesday, Zuma also assessed the work done on the graveling of access roads, the progress in the construction of a new school, a creche and a multi-purpose centre.
“We are happy that some progress has been made in most of the projects we visited today and I can tell you we visited many of them,” Zuma later told a community gathering where he outlined government’s response to poverty and unemployment.
“We are here not only to monitor service delivery but also to see what is working and what is not working and where we can improve (sic)…but as government we want to hear from you so because for us to improve we have to take suggestions from you,” he said.
He said government had decided to prioritise rural development mainly because it saw the growth of rural economy as crucial to the curbing of poverty and development.
“Development has to take place everywhere not only in the cities so this (rural development) is one of our priorities as government and we are moving very well with it”.
Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti, who has been spearheading the CRDP in several provinces, said communities needed to take control of the projects with the state only needing to play a facilitator role.
“We are here to say look the government can do this for you and assist you there but in the process this is what you as a community can do to help yourselves with the resources we are providing,” he said.
Nkwinti said officials from his department will be meeting with emerging farmers in the area of Harrismith with the aim of skilling them with the necessary knowledge to venture into commercial farming.