The Department of Human Settlement outlined the Departments programmes and budget, the progress made in the preceding financial year and the challenges faced by the Department. Six programmes were identified and a breakdown of the individual budget allocations was provided. The programmes are administration; housing policy, research and monitoring; housing planning and delivery support; housing development finance and lastly, strategic relations and governance.
A lack of a shared understanding of the Breaking New Ground (BNG) programme across provinces and between province and national department was identified as a challenge. The Departments response was that it would refine the role of municipalities in housing delivery chain. The Department would also provide assistance and monitoring support to provinces and municipalities in their planning of priority housing projects. Another challenge identified by the Department being provided with a mandate under BNG without providing the Department with the political directive to pursue its policy.
Questions asked by members included problems experienced at the Lerato Park Project, the gender composition and focal point of the Department, the impact of non-nationals on housing, measures to deal with fraud and job creation.
Mr M Sibanda (ANC, Free State) began by stating that the NCOP and NA were equal, that there was no superior house. Some departments made a serious mistake in affording the Committee the required respect. On matters of budget and strategic plan, he said that he expected the executive – the Minister, Deputy Minister and Director –General to address the Committee and non-one else In future anything less would be unacceptable and that there would be no compromises on this issue.
The Acting Director-General in the Department of Human Settlements, Mr Mziwonke Dlabantu, requested that due to illness that one of colleagues be allowed to brief the Committee, but that he would remain and would be available to answer questions.
The Chairperson gave his consent.
The Select Committee on Public Service was addressed by Ms Julie Bayat, Chief Director in the Department of Human Settlements (the Department) on Budget Vote 30.
The aim of the Department was identified as the financing, promotion, coordination and monitoring of housing and human settlements. This was placed in the context of rapid urbanisation, migration for rural to urban areas, population growth, informal settlement growth, decrease in the number of persons per household and subsequent increase in number of households and lack of access to basic services.
Settlement categories were divided into formal, informal, farm dwellers and settlements on communal or tribal land. Formal settlements were proclaimed townships with secure tenure and formal housing (which may have informal backyard dwellers) and access to one or more basic services. Informal settlements are not proclaimed, lack security of tenure, are not surveyed and are not serviced apart from temporary services such as chemical toilets.
There were about 12.5 million households in South Africa and a further 2.2 million were needed to cater for the homeless. The number of households without access to water was stated to be 3.95 million; those without sanitation, 3.2 million, without electricity 2.6 million and those with no refuse removal (once weekly) stood at 4.56 million.
Many people practiced dual residency, maintaining a rural base while sojourning in the city. However, the Department emphasised that it recognised the permanency of urban migration.
The service delivery priorities up to 2014 would include the accelerated upgrading of informal settlements to provide housing to 500 000; an increase in the rate providing affordable rental housing units of at least 20 000 per annum and to set aside 6 250 hectares of well-located public land for low income and affordable housing. (400 000, with an average of 60 units per hectare) The Department would facilitate an increase in the supply of affordable housing finance, to accommodate people who earned too much to qualify for a subsidy, but too little to qualify for a bank loan.
A report was given on the progress made in the past financial year.
The transfer of the sanitation unit from the previous Department of Water Affairs was finalised. Office space and other necessary support structures were all in place. A conceptual document on the impact of the name change from Housing to Human Settlements was developed.
The National Housing Code was published in 2010 and distributed to provinces and municipalities. An indaba on alternative building technologies is currently being arranged and a Beneficiary Occupation Audit was completed.
Three impact evaluation studies were done to determine the impact of various housing programmes on the lives of beneficiaries. These programmes are the Rural Housing project, the Social Housing and Rental Housing programmes and the upgrading of informal settlements
Agreements were entered into with Platinum Mines for the rollout of projects in Limpopo and North West. The Department also entered into an agreement with the Department of Public Works whereby the Department would have right of first refusal on any land disposed of by Public Works.
Support was provided to municipalities for the in site upgrading of informal settlements.
The newly established Housing Development Agency was operational in the 2009 /10 financial year.
With the collaboration of the Rural Housing Loan Fund, the Department finalised the development of an individual housing subsidy scheme for persons who functional tenure rights to land they occupy.
The Department also ensured operational systems were aligned with changes in housing policy.
A process to develop generic business processes based on documented housing delivery.
Five municipalities were accredited to level one.
On an international level the Department was part of the Africa Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Delivery and the Work Urban Forum.
Six programmes were identified and a breakdown of the individual budget allocations were provided. The programmes are administration; housing policy, research and monitoring; housing planning and delivery support; housing development finance and lastly, strategic relations and governance.
A lack of a shared understanding of the Breaking New Ground (BNG) programme across provinces and between province and national department was identified as a challenge. The Departments response was that it would refine the role of municipalities in housing delivery chain. The Department would also provide assistance and monitoring support to provinces and municipalities in their planning of priority housing projects.
Another challenge identified by the Department being provided with a mandate under BNG without providing the Department with the political directive to pursue its policy.
The Departments response was that its recasting from Housing into Human Settlements provided the political directive that was needed.
A third challenge identified was inadequate coordination between sector departments, the three spheres of government and other public and private entities. A related challenge was the lack of capacity to monitor and evaluate impact of housing programmes. The Departments response was that they would direct support to provinces and municipalities on the implementation of processes as well as facilitate cooperation.
The last challenge identified was the creation of a functioning housing market that allowed low income household to capitalise on equity provided by free housing wile minimalising distortion housing subsidies had on in other segments of the housing market. The Departments response was that capital grants were limited.
Mr H Groenewald (DA, North West) asked what impact foreigners from elsewhere, particularly the rest of the continent, had on housing, noting anecdotal stories of foreigners living in houses earmarked for South Africa’s poor.
Mr Dlabantu replied occupancy audits would be able to illuminate this issue when it was complete. However, in some cases, illegal occupants of houses were non-nationals who had obtained occupancy in return for cash and that most would not have title deed. He emphasised that he was not talking about those categories of persons constitutionally recognised as having the same rights as those born in South Africa, those who would be entitled to housing. These two categories were sometimes conflated.
Mr Groenewald asked what was being done about rampant fraud, resulting in half-built houses across South Africa.
Mr Dlabantu replied that the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) was working on a number of issues. He said that some contracts were very weak from government’s perspective. Contracts were looked at on a case by case and recovery was instituted
Mr Groenewald asked whether the Department had sufficient capacity to deliver on its promises.
Mr O De Beer (Cope, Western Cape) said that experience showed that whenever different government departments met in an intergovernmental forum, each department arrived with its own prior mandate, which did not serve the nation as a whole. He wanted to know whether the Department had it own integrated structures to deal with structures separate from other measures.
Mr Dlabantu agreed that persons arrived with their own agendas and targets to such forums. Usually, so-called “gentleman’s agreements” were reached at such meetings. Now, signed agreements would be acquired. He placed such meetings in the context of targets that been outlined by the President.
Mr De Beer said the Department was being very ambitious in filling outstanding vacancies by 2011, noting it had trouble filling current vacancies.
Mr Dlabantu responded that there is a continuous capacity to deliver but there were issues of quality in some cases.
Mr Sibanda asked for a breakdown by province of houses demolished due to shoddy construction.
Mr Dlabantu replied that a rigorous assessment of municipalities was done and that some municipalities were now achieving Level 2 status.
Mr Z Mlenzana (Cope, Eastern Cape) asked about the R1billion talked about by the Minster.
Mr Dlabantu replied that the R1 billion he was referring to was a guarantee based programmed of so-called affordable housing for households which had incomes up to R3500. Those household with an income above R3500 could still be beneficiaries of the programme but that they would have to contribute towards part of the loan, depending on their income level.
Mr Mlenzana asked how much this cost and under which Budget Vote would this cost fall.
Mr Dlabantu replied that he was unable to provide figures and have to provide them at a alter date.
Mr Mlenzana asked how the Rural Housing Loan Fund (RHLF) is run and how the beneficiaries acquire their loans.
Ms Bayat said that this was not a question that could be answered and that they could return with all the details.
Mr Sibanda asked for an organogram of the administration if the Department and also asked them to indicate the gender balance.
Ms M Themba (ANC, Mpumalanga) congratulated the Department for the gender balance of the delegation before the Committee. She asked about the gender focal point in the Department, reiterating the call for an organogram.
Ms Bayat replied that she was not in position to provide those figures but would have to report back to the Committee on this issue.
Ms Themba requested a list of the five Level One municipalities.
Ms Bayat replied that she did not have at hand but would provide a list for the Committee.
Ms Themba asked which two provinces remained unaudited and requested detailed results of provincial audits.
Mr Dlabantu responded that occupancy audits still needed to be completed for Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Free State.
Ms L Mabija (ANC, Limpopo) had no questions but expressed disappointment at the rate of service delivery and emphasises the need to service the people.
Mr R Tau (ANC, Northern Cape) referred to a rural housing summit convened several years ago under then Minster Sisulu, He said that recommendations and models arose out of the summit, and he wanted to how far those resolutions and models were in being implemented.
Mr Dlabantu answered that the recommendations and models raised at the summit were not out of the picture, but was unable to provide a more detailed answer.
Mr Tau asked about the Lerato Park project. He said he understood that there were issues and he sought clarification on these.
Ms Bayat replied that the three spheres of government and ABSA were working together in terms of its agreement on the project, The challenges faced was that the local swage infrastructure was inadequate to service a settlement as large as Lerato Park. She emphasised that the problem was not that of Lerato Park but rather of old infrastructure designed for smaller numbers and lower densities.
Mr Tau asked how the department saw itself as an engine of growth with respect to job creation and skills development. He also asked about the use co-operatives in construction of human settlements.
Mr Dlabantu responded that job creation was a crucial to the Departments work and was part of the Departments process of engagement with local communities. Skills training also occurred at that level. The National Home Builders Registration Council (HNBRC) also had a training provision. He said that he was not sure of the extent of the use of co-operative but that it was an option that needed to be considered.
Mr Sibanda thanked the Department for their attendance and that he expected answers to start filtering in by the next day and that he expected answers to all the Committee questions by the end of the week.
The meeting was adjourned.
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