- Title: SOUTH AFRICA: President Zuma visits poor whites settlement in Pretoria
- Date: 31st March 2010
- Summary: POLICE STANDING OUTSIDE TENT VENUE VARIOUS OF RESIDENTS SEATED
- Embargoed: 15th April 2010 13:00
- Location: South Africa
- Country: South Africa
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA9GJXWCQ299P0SCVG1IH7V84J8
- Story Text: President Zuma visits poor whites settlement in Pretoria seeking to re-assure residents of government support despite service delivery protests that have rocked various townships in recent weeks.
South Africa's president, Jacob Zuma accompanied by government ministers on Tuesday (March 30) visited Bethlehem, an informal settlement in Pretoria where a group of impoverished white residents live.
The head of Solidarity, a largely white member union, said the residents feel marginalised by the largely black ANC led government whose economic policies they say favour black people.
"White poverty is a silent poverty as people seldom speak about it. It is almost politically incorrect to talk about white poverty. As far as I know, this is the only poverty that is deemed politically incorrect to talk about. More than 15 years after 1994, the time has come to break the silence," said Dirk Hermann, Secretary general of Solidarity.
Zuma assured the largely Afrikaans community that the government would provide the necessary services to help alleviate poverty in the area. Zuma, who promised to improve the lives of the poor while campaigning for election last April, is facing an uphill battle to deliver on those promises soon after South Africa emerged from its first recession in 17 years.
This is Zuma's second visit to Bethlehem. The first was in 2008 as president of the ANC before he became the country's leader.
"Our presence here today is a confirmation that we are a government that is committed to all South Africans regardless of colour, race or creed; that has always been our policy and it is the foundation upon which this democracy is built," said Zuma.
Minister of Human Settlement, Tokyo Sexwale said the government would offer services equally to all people regardless of race.
"It's about sending a message to our poor white compatriots that we care, we are one country. We believe that the development and services that should be provided must be provided equally to all the poor. Poverty knows no colour, poverty knows no age, it does not know any border. Obama is the president of white and black in America, the rich and poor so is Zuma, the president of black and white, the rich and white in South Africa."
During the apartheid regime, poor white Afrikaaners were looked after by the state. The government provided Afrikaans-speaking South Africans with jobs, benefits and cheaper housing. But with the ANC-led government these privileges have been lost and poor white people have to contend with the same challenges as the black majority.
For the past two months, protests in poor black townships have erupted around Johannesburg and Gauteng province -- South Africa's economic centre. Residents are angry at what they say is the government's failure to provide decent housing, clean water, electricity and jobs. But analysts say the disturbances could spill over into other provinces as the country prepares to host the world's largest soccer event, the 2010 World Cup.
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