Right of Reply: Nathaniel Kekana

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The Independent Culture
A member of the South African Parliament responds to Fergal Keane's recent article on township life

CYNTHIA MATHEBE'S story is testimony to the courage and patience of millions of South Africans, as well as to the vicious historical legacy that the first democratically elected government is charged with transforming.

But life has changed for millions of South Africans. Cynthia is now a citizen of her country. Her children receive free medical care and a nourishing meal at school. In the foreseeable future she will receive a serviced site and a subsidy to build a brick dwelling.

For citizens of developed countries it is hard to imagine the hardship that most South Africans experience daily. That tap, referred to so lightly in Fergal Keane's article, represents a major change in the lives of millions of our people. Without running water, South African women spent up to six hours a day collecting water. Government recently announced the country's three-millionth recipient of water services.

Over 400,000 people per year are receiving electricity for the first time. A thousand houses are built daily. By the end of this year government will have provided housing for 850,000 households.

But transformation is not just about houses and taps. Cynthia's domestic worker daughter is, for the first time, protected by law against exploitation. She cannot be fired arbitrarily, she cannot be forced to work on Sundays without extra compensation, and she enjoys basic workers' rights. Cynthia cannot he evicted from the land she occupies without due process and, for the first time, enjoys basic human rights that in developed countries are taken for granted.

Would that government could wave a wand and eradicate poverty and its evils. But our government is committed to fiscal discipline, a discipline that has paid dividends by ensuring that our economy has weathered the global melt-down of markets better than any other developing economy. The ANC-led government is committed to the needs of the many, not the few.

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