Department of Human Settlements progress report on creation of human settlements

NCOP Public Services

12 November 2012
Chairperson: Mr M Sibande (Mpumalanga, ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The National Department of Human Settlements (DHS) gave a progress report on creation of human settlements in rural and urban areas. Estimates based on the Census 2011 showed an estimated 2.3 million households needing adequate housing for 2011/2012. From 1994 to September 2012, a total of 2.65 million government-subsidised houses or units were delivered, through the approved housing programmes. In addition, 825 341 serviced sites were completed. 2.52 million beneficiaries were approved for state housing subsidies, of whom 1.41 million were female beneficiaries. From 1994 to September 2012, provincial departments of human settlements approved housing subsidies for 17 793 disabled beneficiaries, of whom around 51.6% were female. About 15 000 had walking disabilities.
Vast amounts of land had been transferred to the poor. The DHS noted some complaints about size of houses, and said that all were supposed to be a minimum of 40 square metres. The current 2012/2013 Human Settlement Development Grant (HSGD) stood at R15.7 billion. During the current financial year, the HSDG spending reached R100 billion. One of the greatest challenges for the DHS was the pattern of increased urbanization, and new household formation.

Members raised questions and concerns about the Department’s lack of attention to rural areas and the lack of proper monitoring of allocated funds and projects, citing a number of instances in which settlements were commenced, but abandoned, or people were promised housing more than ten years previously. Several Members felt that the presentation was poor and would have expected figures comparing allocations and outputs across the provinces, but could not get this information even on raising direct questions. The Chairperson also wanted details of houses rectified, and how many still remained to be done. Members noted that although there was a disability policy, it was geared to those with mobility problems, not to the blind or mentally disabled. They asked if there was a policy to limit people to getting one house, and when they were able to sell it on. The extremely poor housing and dire straits of mining communities were outlined. Many Members commented that there seemed to be an over-emphasis on the urban areas, in particular Gauteng, because of the migration there, but also noted that shacks were springing up that were not being addressed soon enough. Members questioned also how the DHS was addressing the shortage of land, asked why some provincial departments were required to surrender funding back, how the DHS would prevent this, what education campaigns were carried out to ensure that settlements did not spring up in totally unsuitable areas, and noting that the size of houses was not compliant. They asked about the relationships with the Department of Cooperative Governance, Public Works and the traditional leaders. They called for written reports on the provincial spending and allocations, and recovery plans of provinces, and were insistent that at the next meeting, a full team from the DHS must attend, as the presenters seemed unprepared.


Meeting report

 

Opening Remarks
The Chairperson reminded the Committee of several oversight trips that the Committee had held, and noted that the Department should not concentrate on Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) houses, but about the creation of human settlements in line with the new mandate of the Department of Human Settlements (DHS or the Department).

Creation of human settlements: Department of Human Settlements briefing
Ms Sindisiwe Ngxongo, Chief Director: Housing Finance Equity, Department of Human Settlements, tendered the apologies of the Director General for his absence, saying that he had a previous engagement with the Minister.

Mr Phillip Chauke, Chief Director: Monitoring and Evaluation, DHS, explained that the right to adequate housing was entrenched in the Constitution. The Housing Act no 107 of 1997 established the mandate for the Department as the “facilitation of a sustainable housing development process” that would ensure access to adequate shelter for citizens.

The South African government started the current housing programme in 1994, with a massive backlog of households needing accommodation. Using the current DHS backlog estimation methodology, it was estimated that 2.03 million units were needed to ensure access to adequate housing in 2005. Based on figures from the Census 2011, the same methodology generated an estimated 2.3 million households needing adequate housing for 2011/2012. The Department had underscored the need for housing in Gauteng, according to the census, which showed that 743 875 houses were needed, in contrast to KwaZulu Natal, which used to have the greatest need.

The current 2012/2013 Human Settlement Development Grant (HSGD) stood at R15.7 billion. During the current financial year, spending on the HSDG had passed the R100 billion expenditure mark.
The delivery of serviced sites (stands) and houses/units (top structures) across all housing programmes were the two main service delivery indicators for the Department of Human Settlements. From 1994 to September 2012, a total of 2 659 308 government-subsidised houses or units were delivered through the approved housing programmes. In addition, 825 341 serviced sites were completed. Currently, the number of housing units delivered stood at 2.65 million units, excluding the serviced sites completed.

From 1994 to September 2012, a total of 2 526 169 beneficiaries were approved for state housing subsidies. There were 1 407 351 female beneficiaries nationally, which equated to 55.7% of beneficiaries approved.

From 1994 to September 2012, provincial departments of human settlements approved housing subsidies for 17 793 disabled beneficiaries, almost 51.6% of whom were female beneficiaries with disabilities. Of the total number of beneficiaries, 15 127 beneficiaries had walking disabilities.

Some complaints had been noted about the small size of subsidy houses built. However, significant improvement of the size and thermal efficiency of houses had been made over the years. The minimum size for a state subsidised house was 40 square metres.

A large portion of land that was in the hands of local and provincial authorities had been transferred to the poor. Large expanses of privately held land had also been acquired, township establishment processes had been undertaken and sites were transferred as individual property to the previously landless.

In addition to the Vulindlela Housing project in Msundusi (KwaZulu Natal), other rural communities were assisted, such as Oukasie, Kwanyawo Rural, Tarkastad and Bushbuckridge. The DHS now oversaw two additional grants: The Rural Housing Infrastructure Programme grant and the Urban Settlements Development Grant.

One of the greatest challenges for the Department was the increased urbanisation and new household formation. The provision of site and services was the preferred intervention for the Department, especially in informal settlements.

Discussion
Mr M Jacobs (Free State, ANC) felt that the presentation was lacking in some respects. He had wanted to see the input and output per province. For instance, he would have liked to have heard that the DHS had given a province X amount of money, from which , from which Y numbers of houses were built, so that the Committee was able to compare, across all the provinces, the performance. He commented that, for instance, Free State’s towns and projects were not shown, and he wanted to see these.

Mr Jacobs wondered if there was a policy for people with disabilities in DHS and if there was a policy on people receiving homes only to buy or rent them on to foreigners.

Mr Jacobs noted that many people in the Northern Cape complained to him that they were allocated funds to build houses ten years ago, and he had the impression that the funding went, in the main, to the larger towns. Municipalities were building houses but he did not know if they were accredited, because they were able to give tenders to companies and they were not using local people to build the houses. He wanted more clarity on the serviced sites and houses built he wanted clarification on this issue. In the Free State housing had been stopped until 2014, and he wanted clarification on what was actually happening, and whether this was a problem of insufficient funds.

Ms M Themba (Mpumalanga, ANC) noted that the Department’s mandate was the “facilitation of a sustainable housing development process.” She asked the Department if, before it started building all the houses, there was a visibility study done of all the provinces, before going down to metro level. It seemed that the DHS was concentrating on the metros. People were moving to Gauteng because there was no development in their own areas; and this was particularly true of young people who would move to the cities to study, but not return to their home towns. She wondered what the DHS was doing in the remoter areas, and why there seemed to be such a concentration on the developed areas.

Ms Themba also noted that this presentation was not clear enough on what had actually been developed, in each province, since 1994. If she brought this information back to her constituency, only she would be able to understand it, but she stressed that the document must be one that was user-friendly not only for the Committee, but also for members of the constituencies.

Mr Z Mlenzana (Eastern Cape, COPE) asked if the Department was on track for the target of 400 000 settlements. He was worried that it was already nearly the end of the year. He also asked how far the DHS had come with the Millennium Development Goals. He questioned also how the DHS was addressing the shortage of land, especially cemeteries, noting that Port Elizabeth had a particular challenge with this issue, and people were demolishing graves and putting up informal settlements.

Mr Mlenzana appreciated the work being done around the area of disabilities, but said that DHS seemed to be focusing on people with walking disabilities. He had not heard the Department talking about sight or mental disabilities, and he wanted the Department to clarify how people who were affected in this way were being helped.

Mr H Groenewald (North West, DA) said he and other Members were concerned about the rural areas. His own constituency was in a mine region in Rustenburg. He asked for input on what the DHS was doing in this area, and its relationship with the mines, commenting that the miners were living in terrible conditions, with no infrastructure, no water and no lights. Rustenburg had a project of 500 houses, but nothing was happening there. When he asked about it, he was told that no money was paid out, although it had been allocated, and not a single house had been built.  DHS handled millions of rands, and he was particularly concerned about corruption. He reminded the Department that the Minister said he would “nail and jail” those involved in corrupt activities.

Ms Themba said that The New Age had carried a report that the provincial DHS in Mpumalanga had been required to surrender R500 million back to Treasury, and she asked how the DHS worked with the provinces to ensure that this would not occur.

The Chairperson said he was not defending Government, or the Department. He wanted to know what the DHS did to educate people not to build houses on the banks of rivers, dolomite rock, under pylons,  in wetlands and on top of old mines where there was sinking.

The Chairperson commented on the size of the houses, comparing it to the size of the meeting room, and saying that he had seen a foundation in Phillipstown that was smaller than this room, and was still to be divided into four rooms. There, the construction was continuing, although it was less than 40 square metres.

The Chairperson reiterated the concerns of other Members that the DHS was concentrating on the urban areas. The Committee urged it to do more work in the rural areas.

The Chairperson asked about the relationship between DHS and the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA). He asked who was attending to monitoring, and what methodology DHS used to properly monitor, after the money was allocated to the provinces. As long as the Departments’ systems did not talk to each other and there was no following up on provinces after money was allocated to them, nothing would be done.  He wanted to know how much money was given to each province, how much was used of it and what was left over.

The Chairperson supposed that the focus on Gauteng arose because of the migration there.

The Chairperson asked how many houses had been demolished in each province, and how many remained still to be demolished. He noted, in this regard, that corrupt contractors posed a major problem. He asked if there were inter-departmental meetings, noting that DHS had given some tasks to Department of Public Works (DPW).

The Chairperson followed up on other remarks and said that the mining houses were supposed to have a task of social responsibility, and were supposed to build houses.

The Chairperson asked where the land was located, that was still in the hands of the DHS.  

The Chairperson asked why nothing had been said about the N2 Gateway project.

Mr Chauke said that the Department had the information for Ms Themba and the Committee that showed the demographics and projects in each area.

The Chairperson interjected that two projects had been mentioned – ordinary human settlements, and mine projects. He wanted clarity on which projects Mr Chauke was to outline.

Mr Chauke replied that some money came from mines and some came from government. In the North West, specifically Rustenburg, the Department had partnerships with various mine houses. The Department was giving subsides and the mining houses allocated the land. A unit cost R300 000 and Government subsidies yielded up to R8 000 for mining employees. The mining houses donated land and capital towards construction. These programmes were not only in Rustenburg, but also in Limpopo region and a few others.

Mr Chauke confirmed that the Ministers of Human Settlements and Cooperative Governance did hold meetings together.

Mr Chauke responded that some education was given on building, but sometimes people would move onto empty pockets of land, and build on their own. The State would need to move in immediately to take care of the informal settlements that had started, but this sometimes this would take time. The legal situation that currently prevailed was that people could not be removed from land they had occupied without a court order, and even then, that could be contested. The Minister was very clear that his Ministry did not condone legalisation of the illegal settlements.

Mr Chauke promised to look into the areas the Committee had indicated, being villages in the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and the North West and to report back. He noted that the DHS had 7 000 active projects, including rural areas. A travelling team went to rural areas and represented the National Department, engaging with communities. The Department had explicit view and resolution to assisting people in rural and mine areas. He said he noted and would look into the Hanover and Victoria West areas.

Mr Chauke said that there was rigorous monitoring through the MinMEC process. He agreed that services delayed were rights denied.

Ms Ngxongo added that the Department was facing challenges, which had slowed down projects. The Department had put more emphasis on communication with municipalities and provinces to align delivery with national targets.

Ms Ngxongo said that the DHS had noted the questions around disabilities, and would ensure that attention was paid to the types of disability mentioned. The Department was working hard to make sure the delivery targets were realised.

Mr Jacobs wanted to know about the uncompleted houses in the Free State and what was happening, because the projects would continue only in 2014. He reminded the presenters that his question on the policy about on-sale of allocated houses had not been answered. He also said that he was still not satisfied with the responses about the projects, as he had not seen a breakdown of amounts allocated and units built.

Ms Themba noted that between Mpumulanga and Johannesburg there seemed to be a trend of shacks springing up in front of beautiful homes, and she wondered how the DHS was monitoring this, and what it did. She said that as long as the DHS failed to develop the rural areas, there would be more and more shacks erected in Gauteng. She requested the Department to go to Phillipstown and see the houses the Chairperson was talking about. The Committee wanted to see real change.  

Mr Mlenzana said that although his questions were answered superficially, he was hoping for more detail. He also asked the Department to give details, per province, in writing, addressing the questions the Committee had asked. He wanted to know the Recovery Plan for each province, with time frames.

Mr Groenewald said that in the Rustenburg mine region the Royal Bafokeng tribe owned the land. He did not understand how a mine could issue land to residents there to build houses. There were a lot of squatter camps in that area. There was a big project near where he lived, in which the Department was supposed to build 16 000 houses. This project started around 2008, but to date not even half of the houses had been built, and there were a lot of problems with the contractors. He wondered if the DHS had already allocated all the money to the municipality, and, if so, wondered what the municipality had done with that money. He strongly recommended that the DHS should conduct a full investigation into the matter. He asked what action the DHS would take on fraud.

The Chairperson reminded the Department that the Committee Members represented their provinces. He too was not satisfied with the reply to the issue about proper monitoring. Mr Chauke said that part of monitoring was done by the teams visiting different areas in different provinces. The Committee, however, wanted to task the DHS with coming up with a proper mechanism for proper monitoring. It seemed that the DHS did not have a system and did not have relationships with Mayors, or people who knew exactly what was happening.

The Chairperson said his question about traditional leaders was not answered. Communal land was another issue, other than the Royal Bafokeng land in Rustenburg.

The Chairperson suggested that if people were invading informally then the Department should only allow them up to three months to be there, before moving them on, otherwise there would be a problem. The Committee wanted change. DHS was losing money because it did not monitor, and it had no proper policy to address the fact that people were continuously demanding homes.

Mr Chauke explained the policy on houses being sold, and what would happen if a person had houses in different provinces. The current legislation said that a person allocated a house could sell the house only after eight years of ownership. DHS was intending to amend that, to give years. It was not possible for a person to own more than one house. However, a person could be allocated one house, and rent another. The DHS computer systems would see who owned a house, and where, as it was able to pick this up. There was a possibility that a person was legally registered for one house, but had acquired another informally, without the sale being processed. If it was processed, the DHS would pick this up and intervene.  

Mr Chauke then moved to the questions around the Free State. Free State had a budget and money had been allocated. Three years ago, there was an issue with material worth R300 million that was not accounted for properly. The Department was currently trying to stabilise that provincial department. Some people had been suspended and there were new appointments in management posts. However, there were still problems, so the Free State was currently working with the National Department. There were active projects in the Free State, with one project in the rural areas and one in the urban area. In other areas, it was true that there were uncompleted houses where contractors may have abandoned sites.

Mr Chauke confirmed that DHS would investigate the land issue in Rustenburg. He told Mr Groenewald that he did not have a report on the investigation around the money given to the contractor, although only eight houses were built, but it would be presented tomorrow in the Portfolio Committee on Public Services.

Mr Chauke also noted the comments on the N12 highway and said that he would look into the buildings by the road there.

Mr Chauke promised that he would make a detailed recovery plan by each province available.

Mr Chauke said that DHS had been advised to integrate government programmes as they were delivered into the communities. and took this instruction seriously. The Committee had expressed the need to invest in rural areas to stabilise peoples’ movement and the Department would also take this into account. He also said he would give the Committee provincially-based reports by districts. He agreed that good advice was received from the Committee to interact with traditional leaders and mayors. He explained that all projects taking place in villages involved briefings of residents and local chiefs. Chiefs did get involved with development and allocation of beneficiaries.

Mr Chauke said he did not have the information on Phillipstown but he would check into it.

Overall Mr Chauke confirmed that the DHS was intent on monitoring and covering areas to see houses.

Mr Jacobs said it appeared that Mr Chauke was not fully prepared for this meeting, as his answers scratched the surface only. He felt that his questions were not adequately addressed, and he was not sure if this was an attempt to undermine the Committee, or merely lack of preparation.

Mr Mlenzana agreed, and said that he had similar concerns.

The Chairperson requested that Mr Chauke not respond, but said that the information requested must be provided in the next fourteen days. He reminded Mr Chauke that he too still needed an answer on how many houses were demolished and how many were left remaining to be demolished. He requested that at the next meeting, a full team from the DHS should be present.

The meeting was adjourned.

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