The government is going to spend a whopping R4.6bn on housing projects in the Nelson Mandela Metro.
Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulumade the announcement in Parliament on Thursday.
These projects kick off Monday – exactly a year before the 2016 local government elections and amid fears that the ANC runs the risk of losing the municipality.
In the 2014 national election, the ANC won 48.81% of the votes in the metro, while the DA’s won 40.80%.
Sisulu denied that the cash injection and projects in any way related to next year’s election.
She said it was part of a larger intervention – according to her the biggest government intervention ever – by four national departments as the metro had big problems with housing and was not able to cope on its own.
“We decided to intervene. We will be there for the next year or until the problem is over. ”
According to Sisulu, the mayor asked for help and after eight months of negotiations her department, along with the treasury, the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs and the Department of Water and Sanitation, signed an agreement with the metro.
Cabinet accepted the agreement last week, which paved the way for the task team to start its work on Monday.
The R4.6bn will be used to build houses over a period of four years.
Sisulu said the projects would also create jobs.
She said national government had been concerned about housing in the area as people from all over the Eastern Cape had streamed into the metro and townships had expanded considerably.
“We have a responsibility to support the metro,” she said.
Marius Redelinghuys, national spokesperson for the DA, said it was a “desperate attempt by the ANC government to maintain the metro”.
“We expect the ANC in the next year to use more state resources to help them retain power in key areas, but it is too late. The frustrations of residents in the Bay stretch over years and are about more than just housing.”
“The DA is on the threshold of governing in the Nelson Mandela metro and the ANC has realised it is losing support in metros areas.”
Paul Boughey, chief executive of the DA, declined to release the party’s latest figures, but said it was slightly ahead of the ANC in the metro.
“We are confident we can deliver in this metro.”
Athol Trollip, the DA’s mayoral candidate in Port Elizabeth, said he was pleased that government funds would be used for people to build houses.