Minister of Human Settlements on plans for achieving the 100 days target

Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation

19 August 2014
Chairperson: Ms N Mafu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Minister of Human Settlements unpacked the 100 day programme of the Department. She delivered a press statement given to the media saying strategies to implement the programme were at an advanced stage and there was progress. The Committee asked for a detailed report on the work done once the programme was concluded. The Minister committed herself to return on 14 October to brief the Committee.

The Committee raised issues that were not necessarily part of the strategy and asked that the Department not to forget them or treat them any less important or urgent. Members brought up the issue of incomplete houses that had been left standing for years, completed houses that were left unoccupied and the problem of housing in mining towns. The comment was made that there were well built structures in some mining towns that could be used, what was needed was the intervention of the Department on how these could be used to fit into the plans of government.

The Committee questioned the difference in building structures DHS provided. One Member commented that there were instances where people built “mansions”. The Minister highlighted that the Department did not only provide the same housing structures, there were a variety of options available which included giving people vouchers to build their own houses and that was encouraged. Government provided them with land and they could build the house with the vouchers they got from government. It was actually encouraged that people built themselves mansions.

The Committee emphasised the urgency in dealing with sanitation, mining towns, the accreditation of municipalities by provinces, providing houses for military veterans, assisting government employees that neither qualified for bank loans or RDP houses and the alignment between departments and different spheres of government. The initiative undertaken by the Department was applauded and the Committee hoped that it would be fruitful.


Meeting report

The Chairperson explained that Minister Lindiwe Sisulu was present to brief the Committee on the 100 day programme which she spoke about during the budget vote debate. The Minister would unpack the programme and not give a detailed report on what had been done. That would be done after the conclusion of the 100 days. She handed over to the Minister to make her presentation.

What Do We Commit Ourselves To Do In The Next 100 Days:
Minister Lindiwe Sisulu took the Committee through the commitments of the 100 day programme:

Number one: The President had created an Inter-Ministerial Committee on the revitalisation of mining towns. The Department had interacted with the mining sector in the past and found that, unless there was a plan for secondary industry and related infrastructure the Department would be unable to attract the necessary investment capital into mining towns for continued economic activity after the last ore had been mined. Through the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on the Revitalisation of Mining Towns, the Department would be meeting with the Chamber of Mines, the Banking Sector and the provinces where these towns were, to put together a plan on how the Department was going to tackle the challenge.

Number two: title deeds. The issuing of title deeds for pre-1994 stock would be prioritised. Without the title deeds the owners were unable to revitalise the old townships, which were in a very sad state of decay. The Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) had been tasked to prioritise this and submit a report by 30 September 2014. The post-1994 stock, again were dead assets lying in the Deeds Office. The Department would collaborate with the Department of Land Reform and the Office of the Land Commission and create a dedicated unit dealing with fast-tracking the issuing of title deeds of this post-1994 stock.

Number three: In 2004 the N2-Gateway Project was established as a national MinMec project. It was funded by all nine provinces as a jointly owned project. This was done in order to test the State’s ability to build on a large scale and learn from it what was done right and also learn from its mistakes. MinMec took a decision on 4 July 2014 that the project will revert to being a national MinMec project. The Department aimed to ensure that it could, in the shortest time possible, complete phase one, so that all who drive to the airport on the N2 could attest to the success of the N2 Gateway.

Number four: MinMec had decided that the Department would now embark on mega projects, because in this way the economies of scale would be in favour of government. In these mega projects there would be a collaboration of all three spheres of government. Local government would ultimately inherit the projects once completed and therefore the responsibility of the allocation of units and the provision of infrastructure and the maintenance of the project would be the responsibility of local government.

The Department would like to revitalise Cosmo City, another success story of integrated human settlements on a large scale. This project would be revitalised on Mandela Day by cleaning up Cosmo City and rebranding it as a success story that was worth replicating in every province.

Number five: On the matter of a credible waiting list database, the Department would sign a Service Level Agreement with the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) and the Housing Database will be up and running within this period of 100 days.

Number six: An important component for the success that the Department had found in the past was due to the Department’s social partners. The Department would be signing a Social Contract with the Banking Association of South Africa (BASA) to recommit to the Social Contract concluded in 2005.

Number seven:  The Human Settlements entities would be restructured. The Housing Development Agency (HDA) would become a fully-fledged development agency, whose job was not only to acquire and prepare land, but to be a developer and project manager to assist municipalities and any other sphere that might need support.

Number eight: As requested by the Estate Agency Affairs Board, the Department would look into the possibility to absorb it into the Department of Human Settlements rather than it exist as an independent entity. The Social Housing Regulatory Agency (SHRA) had been unable, for various reasons, to fulfil its mandate. As a result it would be placed under administration and they would similarly explore the possibility of absorbing it into the Department of Human Settlements. The SHRA board will retain its responsibility until the restructuring was complete.

Number nine: The Department would establish a Women and Youth in Construction Support Programme headed by a Deputy Director-General (DDG) in the National Department of Human Settlements to ensure that women and the youth are supported to be part of the construction boom. Provincial Departments were expected to do the same. Together with the National Home Builders Regulatory Council (NHBRC), the Department would establish a training academy that would be focusing on professionalising housing practitioners and up-skilling women and youth. Currently there were 100 female students, sponsored by the NHBRC, studying at the University of Pretoria’s GIBS business school.

In discussions with the Estate Agencies Affairs Board (EAAB), they committed to train young, black candidate housing agents to revitalise the industry. The Academy established by the NHBRC would incorporate a training course for estate agents, property management and all other skills required for this sector.

A youth brigade would be created in each province and assigned to catalytic projects. To celebrate Women’s month in August the Department would be building 1 956 houses in each province for women, by women. This will be led by South African Women in Construction (SAWiC) and done by the Youth Brigade between August and December 2014.

A dedicated Branch, headed by a DDG, would be established to ensure that all 5 854 indigent military veterans receive houses in less than three years. The Department would work with the Department of Military Veterans to develop a programme to train military veterans and ensure that they participate in the building of their houses.

Finally, the Department would resolve the thorny contestation between local and provincial spheres, regarding the accreditation of municipalities, so that there was common understanding and they were able to proceed. The level of uncertainty that existed in this regard was very onerous on municipalities and burdensome on delivery.

This is what the Department had committed to do in the “next 100 days”. In each case, plans had been put in place and were at an advanced stage.

The Chairperson said that in the 100 day initiative briefing what the Minister had left out and what most Members wanted to hear about was the sanitation issue and the status of the matter since the last meeting. The Department said they were going to be engaging with the new Department of Water and Sanitation and negotiate a way forward on the relations between the Department of Human Settlements and the Department of Water and Sanitation.

The Minister said she had planned to brief the Committee on the delineation of responsibility between the two Departments. The meeting with Water and Sanitation had produced very pleasant engagements. When in 2005 Breaking New Ground / 2009 'human settlements' was conceptualised away from simply housing, the delineation was very clear. Then the current Director General joined the Department and decided that sanitation belonged to human settlements. However, with the discussions with the new Minister of Water and Sanitation, it was clear what exactly was meant to be in Human Settlements and what was meant to be part of Water and Sanitation. Bulk sanitation and water belonged to the Department of Water and Sanitation, but the internal reticulation belonged to the Department of Human Settlements. The delineation was now clear and reversed what the Director General had put in place – which was the placement of all the sanitation resources into Water and Sanitation. The Department had taken back some of those resources and streamlined it with the understanding of the Department’s role and responsibility. Regarding the bucket eradication process, the venture was being run with the Department of Water and Sanitation. There was a joint task team, led by the Minister of Water and Sanitation, but the budget was with the Department of Human Settlements. The timeframe set by the task team was that by 2016 there would not be buckets anywhere in South Africa.

Mr K Sithole (IFP) asked about mining towns. He wanted clarity on which mines were targeted; there was the burning issue of North West mines and other places. Also, the accreditation of municipalities by provinces was a burning issue that needed to be addressed. With regards to the initiative to resolve the title deed backlog by 2017, how would that be done considering that the Department was not clear on how many title deeds were actually outstanding and therefore did not fully understand the backlog.

The Minister said on the accreditation of municipalities, that there had been two meetings with South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and two meetings with Ministers and Members of Executive Council (MinMec). The Minister’s role in the meetings was to get the two parties together and find middle ground. The Department had a document that defined that middle ground and there would be a joint seating with SALGA, MinMec and Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) to present the way forward on accreditation and endorse it. The job of the Minister was to facilitate and ensure that legislative procedures were followed, but the signing off was up to the MEC of each province.

The Department was still working on the backlog of title deeds, the reason why the HDA added an additional checking system was because they hoped to have a tracking systems that indicates what subsidies had been given and what developments had been started that go together with subsidies. This would create an infrastructure that would help the Department to understand what the backlog was in relation to title deeds. The EAAB already had a structure in place and that would be used to cross-reference. Title deeds were with Land Affairs and there were engagements needed with Minister Gugile Nkwinti to prioritise the matter. In the 100 days programme the aim was to establish an approach to the matter and that was done. The backlog would be confirmed by 14 October 2014.

Mr N Capa (ANC) asked for clarity on the linkage between the 100 day commitments and poverty alleviation, unemployment and inequality. 

The Minister said the question was difficult as it was at the very basis of the work the government did. The whole idea for Breaking New Ground of 2005 was to change racial patterns and empower black people, which was behind changing the mandate from housing to human settlements in 2009.

The Chairperson added that this was a question that had to be asked continually and could not be confined to the 100 day programme.

Mr M Shelembe (NFP) asked how the Department described the bucket system. The figures that were given were not clear if they referred to Ventilation Improved Pit (VIP) toilets or if there was a structure with a bucket. Using the figures, it was very difficult to do a follow up as it was not clear exactly what the bucket system was. Regarding the rectification projects, there had not been a detailed report to the Committee as to where the rectification projects were.

The Chairperson said she understood what Mr Shelembe was asking for, but the focus of the meeting was to discuss the 100 day programme. Also, the Minister could not answer some questions as a Member of the Executive Council (MEC) would more adequately answer them, and the Committee as a National Assembly Committee could not deal with certain issue as they were for another legislature to deal with.

The Minister said the bucket system that was being targeted was in the formal sector. For instance, the problem in the Free State was the land on which the houses were built. Building flushing toilets would cost more than building the house because the granite the houses were built on made it impossible to drill down into the granite. The Department was looking at a deviation system. To do that just for the Free State would amount to R3 billion. It was a big problem. The Director General was on a team looking into solutions for this. The informal sector bucket system eradication target was a moving one and would be difficult to count. In the informal sector, where possible, chemical systems were used.

Mr H Mmezi (ANC) said though his question was not part of the 100 day programme but the issue may have been implicitly implied in the listed initiatives. He asked about the incomplete houses that were left at foundation level, or wall level and those that were almost complete but were left standing for more than five years. Though these were not part of the 100 day programme, he would like to hear that those were not continually forgotten. The focus on mega projects was good as the projects had a great impact. But, in rural areas big projects may not be possible but people in those areas still appreciate whatever little was done. The Committee would like to hear of those projects as well.

Mr Mmezi said he had been a mine worker for the greater part of his life; miners had always fought for hostels to be turned into family units. The Minister had committed to speak on the matter and press mine bosses on their own projects to convert hostels into family units be speeded up. Another item not pointed out in the 100 day programme was that of nurses, teachers and police that banks were not willing to finance bonds for but yet they did not qualify for Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) houses. It needed to be highlighted what would be something done for people in this bracket.

The Minister said the incomplete houses were part of the' one year' process. The platform being set out by the HDA would indicate where the incomplete projects were. The reasons structures were incomplete varied.  When the Department met with the Minister of Water and Sanitation, it was noted that next to Marikana there was a township with 2 000 houses that were unoccupied because the water had not been switched on. The reason the water was not turned on was because the municipality had not paid the water board. This meant the houses stood unoccupied until the alignment on this issue was resolved. The Department insisted on a spatial master plan so that the Minister of Energy, the Minister of Transport, the Minister of Water and Sanitation all signed off on the project before it was started.  The spatial master plan was going to ensure that there was alignment. This was just one of the reasons for incomplete houses that the Department would be dealing with in its 'one year' plan.

On rural housing, she said that there were a lot of complexities involved, dealing with it was part of the one year plan and the Department would come back to the Committee to indicate how they would be dealing with it. Mining towns that were dealt with were Sekhukhune and Lephalale in Limpopo, in North West there was Bojanala in Rustenburg, Mpumalanga there was Nkangala in eMalahleni, Free State there was Lejweleputswa, in Gauteng there was West Rand and Mogale City. A breakdown of the number of units to be produced had already been worked out.

The Minister said there was a serious problem about the reconstruction of hostels into family units. It was the intention of the Department to turn hostels into family units and that had been done in Mzimhlophe, Dube and in other townships in Gauteng, because the dignity of the miner was important. The Minister asked for IFP members to assist government in this matter as hostels remained empty and were continually vandalised, the purpose of the family units had not been utilised. The beneficiaries had indicated that they were required to pay for services when they moved into the houses. It was important that people were educated that such services were for their benefit. The hostels were built in consultation with the beneficiaries but now they were refusing to move into them. The conditions they were currently living in were appalling.

On housing for government employees, she said that there was a Government Employees Scheme; the scheme would allow the state to act as guarantors for people employed by the state for the bank housing loans.

Mr S Gana (DA) asked for clarity on mega projects, so that on 14 October he knew what to look for and expect. It was not clear exactly what projects the 100 day programme was looking at. The press statement merely referred to 10 projects, nine in all provinces and one a national project. One of the things that were not mentioned in the 100 day programme was the incomplete houses and what was going to be done with them, especially with the people that were contracted to build them.

Also, it was known that there were a lot of protests in the country. There were projects in the country where houses were built and completed but were not occupied, one would have expected that in the 100 day programme one of the things that would be expected to be speeded up was the occupation of those houses that had been standing unoccupied for years. During protests, to show dissatisfaction people would vandalise and destroy those houses. Dealing with those houses was one of the things the Department should move with speed to resolve, year after year money was spent to fix damage to those houses.

The Minister said the mega projects would be delineated within the year and would be reflected in the budget vote which would get into detail as to where the mega projects were. Regarding houses that stood unoccupied, in most instances that happened due to the credibility of the waiting list. There was contestation about who the beneficiaries were. The Minister proposed that Mr Gana and Mr Mmezi all go to Dube on Sunday, 24 August 2014, to evaluate what was going on.

Ms L Mnganga-Gcabashe (ANC) asked about the mega projects and the involvement of all spheres of government and local government being responsible for the provision of infrastructure. Some small municipalities did not have capacity to provide bulk infrastructure like water, sanitation and electricity. Were there any engagements between the relevant ministries to have a programme to assist those municipalities with service delivery? When there were service delivery protests about housing, people were angry at the Department of Human Settlements and not at the Department of Water and Sanitation or Department of Energy though the shortfall of services was on their part.

Ms Mnganga-Gcabashe asked if there were plans to transform the real estate agents sector, one of the commitments did highlight that there would be training of black estate agents. It was a good thing that the Estate Agent Board was now under the Department, there was a huge backlog that the Department had now undertaken. Regarding military veterans receiving housing, the Department was involved with the Department of Military Veterans, but where did provinces stand regarding this initiative. Often the media would have stories of military veterans living in shacks, the initiative to provide housing for veterans needed to be fast tracked. With the eradication of the bucket system, in the joint programme between DHS and the Department of Water and Sanitation, was the initiative going to be through the entire Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) cycle or would it go beyond that cycle.

The Minister said the reason the HDA would be extending to a development agency was to have in-house capacity to help municipalities that lacked it. Another issue was misalignment and producing the spatial master plan would assist with that. The Estate Agency Affairs Board was a big problem because it was dealing with real power, but it was good that it now fell under the Human Settlements portfolio and there would be uniformity throughout the housing sector across the country and there would be no fragmentation. There was a post for a Deputy Director General who would be dealing with military veterans, he was also a military veteran and understood the urgency. Houses for military veterans was a different matter, they were not getting normal houses.

Mr Thabane Zulu, DHS Director General, said the eradication of the bucket system was a horizontal matter that involved bilateral relations between the Department of Water and Sanitation and the Department of Human Settlements. The team from both departments had to ensure that the programme did not suffer due the sanitation changes to the new department. The bucket eradication project would continue without a hitch. For the next two years, Treasury had agreed to use the money belonging to the human settlements grant for the project. After the two years the money would revert back to the Department.

The Chairperson asked about the HDA becoming a fully fledged development agency, would legislation be needed to implement that?

The Minister said there was a need for legislation to empower the HDA into being a development agency.

Closing remarks
The Minister thanked the Committee for attending the Govan Mbeki awards.

The Chairperson thanked the Minister and the Department officials present and said some issues could only be adequately interrogated on 14 October.

The meeting was adjourned.

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