Nomzamo /Lwandle evictions: Ministerial Inquiry recommendations ratified; Green Paper on Human Settlements: Departmental update

Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation

04 November 2014
Chairperson: Ms N Mafu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Human Settlements (DHS) briefed the Committee on the development of a Green Paper for Human Settlements. The Green Paper's strategy was to develop 20-30 year plan for building houses that would improve the quality of life. The process would include a review and development of policies. Five different phases were involved in developing the paper and these were explained. Phase 1 would see the Department determining the objectives of the Green Paper, Phase 2 would consist of dialogues to better understand the issues faced by the Department, and policies would be developed during Phase 3 to eradicate the challenges identified in earlier phases. In Phase 4, consultations would start with the communities/stakeholders who would affected by the policies developed, and these would also be communicated to those who would be working with the Department on implementing the policies. Phase 5 would involve monitoring and evaluations, although these would have started also at earlier stages. The Department aimed, through the Green Paper, are to break apartheid patterns, to have citizens living close to work and have access to social facilities and necessary infrastructure, to have affordable services in better environments, to have an improved quality of life and an environment which was able to attract investments. There were challenges of urbanisation and spatial planning, and it was estimated that the average household income was about R103 204, over 2 million households were depended on the intervention of the state for housing and about 3.5 million households did not qualify for full government subsidy or mortgage finance. Members asked about the progress of the Green Paper, urging that matters needed to move with some speed. They were interested in whether the DHS itself had enough resources to actually implement the policies, suggested that it should partner with other departments, and asked what plans there were for people who wanted to buy land and build their own houses.

The Department then briefed the Committee on the Ministerial Inquiry recommendations into the Nomzamo /Lwandle evictions, and said the Inquiry Committee was set up to try to find better ways of managing land evictions, and to check whether, in this case, evictions followed the proper legal processes. It was pointed out that despite legislation and policies, illegal occupations and evictions continued, so there were obviously some loopholes in the law that had to be addressed.  that have been followed leading to the ultimate evictions. A series of events had led up to the February 2014 evictions. The community first moved into the site in December 2013, and SANRAL obtained a court order on 24 January 2014, resulting in over 800 people being evicted , but when SANRAL did not secure the land, they moved back on to the site and started rebuilding their homes a few weeks later. Another eviction occurred in February 2014. The Inquiry Committee found that the court order of 24 January 2014 did not actually authorise SANRAL to effect an eviction of the occupiers of the land, since the application was brought for an interim interdict and not an eviction order in terms of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act. It was not clear why exactly the evictions occurred and the Inquiry Committee had invited submissions from the South African Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL), the South African Board of Sheriffs, South African Police Services (SAPS) and the City of Cape Town (CoCT), amongst others. The Inquiry Committee's recommendations were that all three spheres of government should get involved and develop warning systems both to identify illegal evictions and to warn people timeously that they were to be evicted, that land must be secured so that no one would start occupying it and SAPS must ensure the safety of the community during the evictions. Members expressed their disquiet about the way the situation and the eviction had been handled. They suggested that land should be properly marked as belonging to an authority. They questioned why only ANC supporters were included on the Inquiry Committee, and why the DA of the Western Cape had not been asked to give evidence. One Member was insistent that the DHS and government must do more to educate communities that they could not simply move on to land and occupy. Members approved the Inquiry recommendations. 

Meeting report

Briefing by the Department on the Development of a Green Paper for Human Settlements
Dr Zoleka Sokopo, Chief Director: Strategy,  Department of Human Settlements, said the purpose of the Green Paper for Human Settlements was to develop a 20-30 year strategy for the development of human settlements, and to establish a foundation for the review and development of the relevant legislative framework. The development process and phases of the Green Paper followed a process of:
(1) determining what the Paper seeks to achieve
(2) conducting dialogue around the issue to understand the problems faced by the Department
(3) developing policies
(4) starting consultations with relevant stakeholders and
(5) monitoring and evaluating the processes.

Phase 1 of the process would include a determination of the long term outcomes of the Green Paper and assessing what impact  the new developments would have on society. Phase 2 involved understanding the problems of the Department, phase 3 consisted of developing policies to help accommodate the Green Paper and ensure its effectiveness, phase 4 would help the Department determine who should be involved and how, and in this phase it would also be necessary to attract skills to implement the policy. The last phase would measure performance based on the outcomes, but this would have been an on-going process in the earlier phases also.

By 2050, visible results from effectively coordinated spatial planning systems should have transformed human settlements in South Africa into equitable and efficient spaces with citizens living in close proximity to work and access to social facilities and necessary infrastructure. Measurable progress should have been made towards breaking apartheid patterns, with significant progress towards retro-fitting existing settlements, now offering the majority of South Africans access to adequate housing, affordable services in better living environments, within a more equitable and functional residential property market.

The Department of Human Settlements (DHS or the Department) aimed to have sustainable human settlements and an improved quality of life, to have adequate housing and improved quality living environments, a functionally equitable residential property market and  enhanced institutional capabilities for effective coordination of spatial investment decisions. The Green Paper would focus on coming up with broader measures for the development of sustainable human settlements, developing a more coherent and inclusive approach to land for human settlements, developing a mechanism that would respond systematically to entrenched spatial patterns across all geographic scales that exacerbated social inequity and economic inefficiency. It would also revise the housing finance regime and build capabilities for transforming human settlements. The comprehensive plan for the development of sustainable human settlements was to accelerate housing delivery, improve the quality of housing products and environments to ensure asset creation, and to ensure a single efficient formal housing market that would happen alongside the restructure and reintegration of human settlements.

The Department faced many challenges with spatial planning, urbanisation and shelter. Despite efforts to transform South Africa's urban areas, many housing projects did not create efficient urban spaces. 60% of South Africa's population lived in urban areas and this was estimated to increase to 70% in 2030. Gauteng and the cities of e-Thekwini and Cape Town were the fastest growing urban areas and there was an increased demand for government assistance in housing, as a result of rapid urbanisation and high levels of unemployment. The realities were that the average household income was about R103 204, over 2 million households were depended on the intervention of the state for housing and about 3.5 million households did not qualify for full government subsidy or mortgage finance.

The Chairperson asked when the Department planned to complete the Green Paper processes.

Mr K Sithole (IFP) asked how long it took to develop a Green and White Paper.

Mr S Gana (DA) said he liked what the Department planned on doing with the policy but policies always faced challenges during the implementation phase. He suggested that more focus was needed on developing measures on how exactly to implement the policy. He asked if there were enough resources like skills, capacity and equipment to implement the policy. He said the Department should also consider building recreational facilities and clinics to help improve the quality of life.

Ms T Baker (DA) said although it was a good policy, it was not in line with recent infrastructure that had taken place, and thus asked if the DHS still planned to move forward with the policy even though some houses were built before the policy was developed. The policy should have been implemented before the National Development Plan (NDP), and she challenged the Department to try to find quick fixes to the housing issues.

Ms L Mnganga-Gcabashe (ANC) said the Department should make provision for people who wanted to buy land and start building their own houses. She also suggested that other Departments, such as those dealing with Energy, Water and Sanitation and Education, should be included in the policy as well for partnership purposes.

Mr H Memezi (ANC) said that DHS was still failing to integrate all communities into policies and the focus should be on the rural areas. This would prevent people from migrating to the cities for employment and a better life.

Dr Sokopo replied that the policy was only intended to focus on the functions of the Department and  its plans regarding the housing issues. DHS had already considered working with other departments, and those plans would be explained in detail later. The DHS was aware that implementation was a challenge for the Department and thus it planned on being more aggressive this time around, and with increased  focus on the timeframes of each phase. The issue of whether DHS had enough capacity would be dealt with through the partnerships with other departments; DHS had a recruitment process in place that had been running for a year. The only real challenge was seen as moving from the Housing Act to the Human Settlements Act.

The Chairperson said the questions  asked by the Members were not a criticism of the Department but Members were keen to see things running more quickly, which was the reason they had asked for specific details about the policy. 

Nomzamo / Lwandle evictions: Briefing on Ministerial Inquiry results: Department of Human Settlements
Mr Thabane Zulu, Director General, DHS, said the purpose of the inquiry into the evictions that had taken place at Nomzamo / Lwandle was to investigate how these evictions occurred, despite the existence of legislation and policies, and the continuing cases where people were evicted and left homeless and despondent. Although there had been many cases of evictions, these needed to be used as a lesson on better management of mass evictions and DHS should further interrogate the reasons for what could be presumed to be legislative loopholes and policy failures, including implementation contestation. The Minister wanted to establish the real causes of the land occupation, resultant evictions and check all legal processes that had been followed leading to the ultimate evictions.

The mandate of the Ministerial Inquiry Committee was to investigate all the circumstances under which the evictions took place, and the history of the evictions, including the facts leading to the application for and obtaining of the court order on 24 January 2014 by the South African National Road Agency Limited (SANRAL), and the execution of that court order by SANRAL. The inquiry was further to look into the role of the relevant Sheriff for the jurisdiction of Cape Town, and the roles of the law enforcement officials of the South African Police Services (SAPS), the Cape Town Metro Police, other officials of the national, provincial and local government involved, and any other person. Although the full extent of the identity of the evicted community could not be established, it was known that the community first moved on to the site in December 2013, and although it was common knowledge that over 800 people were evicted, this number could be verified. The community was initially evicted in February 2014, but started to rebuild on the same day, and a few weeks later, this and was not secured, even after the February evictions and there were no notices placed on the site.

The Inquiry founded that the land was unlawfully occupied during two phases, namely prior to the evictions on the 3 February 2014 and during the period between the February and June 2014 evictions. A court order was obtained to prevent imminent invasion of the land during January 2014. The court order was then utilised by SANRAL to effect the evictions and to regain control of the land on 3 February 2014. However, SANRAL then failed to take effective steps to retain control of the land, resulting it being re-occupied. The Inquiry had concluded that the court order of 24 January 2014 did not authorise SANRAL to effect an eviction of the occupiers of the land. It also established that the court application was for an interim interdict, and not an eviction order in terms of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act, 19 of 1998 (PIE).

The Inquiry recommended the amendment of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act, and said that organs of state should refrain from using land invasion interdicts as de facto eviction orders. It concluded that land owners must proactively identify and secure their property and/or vacant land, so as to discourage invasion. When carrying out an eviction order, the sheriff responsible must ensure proper recording and safekeeping of property. The approach of SAPS in the execution of an eviction order must be one where officers also protected the community involved and their property. The three spheres of government should develop an early warning system, tracking and monitoring mechanisms on evictions across the country It concluded that the Nomzamo /Lwandle evictions appeared to be a microcosm of the situation prevailing in many parts of the country.

Mr Sithole said the report on the Inquiry was supposed to be given to the Committee before it was tabled to the National Assembly. He asked why the members of the Inquiry Committee were all African National Congress (ANC) members, and why there were submissions only from the ANC party of the Western Cape but not of the Democratic Alliance (DA).

Mr Gana said he was hoping the inquiry would have find out who led the community to the owned land. He made the point that the dwellers needed to be educated that they could not simply occupy the land.

Ms V Bam-Mugwanya (ANC) asked if the victims asked for compensation for the property that was damaged during the evictions.

Mr Memezi said the situation reminded him of the legacy of apartheid and asked what the Department has done to restore the dignity of those evicted. A housing register should have been sent to Lwandle to cater for those that did not have houses.

Mr N Cape (ANC) asked if there were stakeholders who made comments about the evictions but did not submit recommendations to the Inquiry.

Ms Mnganga-Gcabashe said SANRAL still had not submitted plans for development on the land to the Committee, and asked why this was taking so long.

Mr Zulu replied that the Minister appointed all the members of the Inquiry Committee, and each appointment was based on qualifications. The panel had included people who had knowledge of community issues and who had experience of working in Parliament as former MPs. The Minister needed to put in place a Committee who would not require much guidance and direction when dealing with the matter. The fact that the ANC made submissions did not mean that the DA could not have done so, as the Inquiry welcomed written submissions from anyone.

The Chairperson interrupted Mr Zulu and asked the Committee to focus on the recommendations, and whether the Committee supported them.

Mr Memezi said he supported the recommendations.

Ms Baker said she was concerned at the recommendation that suggested that local government should have played an oversight role, because that was normally the mandate of local government.

Ms Bam-Mugwanya said she needed clarity on the recommendation in paragraph 19.

Mr Gana said the  Committee should discourage evictions of land and property and communities should know that when land is open it did not mean people should occupy it.

Mr M Shelembe (NFP) said he also supported the recommendations but there should have been an apology issued to the people of Lwandle.

The Chairperson said the biggest lesson to be learned from the situation was how to handle land evictions and she hoped the report would be made public, especially the recommendations.

The meeting was adjourned.  

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