Current status and finalisation of District Six Land Restitution Housing Project: stakeholder engagement

Human Settlements (WCPP)

28 April 2021
Chairperson: Ms M Maseko (DA)
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Meeting Summary

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The Standing Committee on Human Settlement met on a virtual platform for a briefing by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements (WCDHS) and the City of Cape Town (CoCT) on the current status and finalisation of the District Six Land Restitution Housing Project, and to outline the challenges associated with the project and the reasons for the current delay.

Members were not impressed that the DALRRD had withdrawn from the meeting at the last minute, and found it worrisome that they seemingly refused to engage with the provincial oversight body. It was difficult to have a fruitful discussion on the pertinent issues facing the District Six housing restitution project when the lead department was absent. They were limited going forward with the meeting in order to understand the full extent of the delays without the DALRRD’s input.  They found it equally unacceptable that there was a 30-year backlog on the restitution of housing, and wanted to know why it had taken five years to build 108 houses.

Members also wanted to know what challenges the District Six housing restitution programme faced;  whether the WCDHS and the CoCT were prepared to play their roles after the completion of the restitution project; what the relationship between the DALRRD and the two provincial bodies was; what the CoCT was doing to protect the designated land from illegal occupiers, and what plan was in place for the 100 occupiers; how beneficiaries were managed across the mainstream municipal housing database and the District Six housing restitution database, and what updates had been made to the spatial planning workshop that took place in December 2012.

The CoCT indicated that it had engaged with the DALRRD a number of times, but was yet to receive a formal application for budgeting. The budget that had been approved was currently being used. The CoCT had availed all its available land to the restitution project, and had structures in place to guard against land invasions, but admitted that the current invaders were difficult to deal with as their structures were different from the typical informal structures land invaders erected.

The land in District Six belonged to all three spheres of government in different proportions, and the role of the CoCT was as custodian of the land for the benefit of the District Six claimants. The WCDHS’s role was to deal with the transfer of the land as it was being developed, while the CoCT was responsible for the maintenance of the land to ensure it complied with by-laws. A draft spatial framework had been developed in 2012 by the DALRRD, but had never been formally approved or adopted by the CoCT as part of its framework. It had obtained approval from the DALRRD to use the 2012 document in its local spatial development framework, because many of the issues and proposals were still applicable. In the CoCT's current planning process, the focus was on sustainability, which was an example of how the 2012 plan had been improved. Proposals from the engineering departments also had to be incorporated, so the 2012 document was used as a base and was updated where development had taken place.

Initially, there had been 3 000 claimants for the District Six housing restitution, but only 900 remained. The CoCT could not build houses for those claimants because it built only subsidised housing, and the  District Six claimants were not housing subsidy claimants, and  therefore they did not qualify. The DALRRD had to find alternative funding to build the houses, as the CoCT could assist only when it came to a portion of the bulk services.

Meeting report

National Department's absence

The Chairperson said that the national Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) had submitted an apology for their absence at the meeting.

She explained the background on record. On 13 April, the DALRRD had been emailed an invitation to attend a meeting with the Standing Committee to discuss the District Six housing allocations. The email had gone unanswered. On 20 April, a follow-up communication had been sent about the invitation to the meeting. The DALRRD had responded on 26 April with a presentation attached, which was taken as a confirmation of its attendance at the meeting. However, on the evening of the same day, the DALRRD had sent a subsequent email withdrawing its presentation and attendance. The reason given was that the Department had other commitments to attend to.

The Chairperson said she did not know if the DALRRD would ever join in future, as it had not asked for a postponement to a future date. She asked Members to advise on a way forward, as the national Department was the champion of the District Six housing project. Members wanted to understand why there was a 30-year backlog in the restitution of housing. She found it worrying the DALRRD did not want to engage with the Standing Committee as the provincial oversight body. Did the DALRRD have the political will to ensure the housing restitution took place, as the spheres of government needed to work together to ensure that the recipients who were still alive could receive the housing restitution before they passed on?

She asked Members for their advice.

Discussion

Mr A Van der Westhuizen (DA) acknowledged that it was a pity the DALRRD was not present to brief the Standing Committee, as Members had looked forward to hearing what challenges it faced with the restitution project. Members were limited going forward in understanding the full extent of the delays without the DALRRD’s input. He urged the Chairperson to write to them again, giving them alternative dates to appear before the Committee. He also suggested that in future, the DALRRD should send other representatives to brief the Committee if all senior officials were unavailable although senior officials would be preferred. Members required information which could be captured in a presentation that could be communicated by not only the most senior official, although that would be preferred.

Mr D Mitchell (DA) agreed with Mr Van der Westhuizen.

Mr Tertius Simmers, MEC for Human Settlements, was taken aback by the absence of the DALRRD, given how well documented the project had been, including a court order compelling the Department to institute the housing restitution project. It was concerning, because earlier that week an elder from District Six had turned 100 years old and it was uncertain how much longer she would live to see the restitution take place in her lifetime. The key role players were not present. He hoped the DALRRD reacted to the Chairperson’s future dates, as he wanted to see the community receive restorative justice.

Ms Marian Nieuwoudt, Councillor, City of Cape Town, said the project was supposed to be led by the DALRRD, which had been engaged with a number of times. The City of Cape Town (CoCT) was yet to receive a formal application for budgeting. It was aware that what had been approved was currently being built.

Taking her cue from the Members' contributions, the Chairperson said the meeting could not proceed further as the key role players were absent.

Mr Van der Westhuizen agreed that the Standing Committee was highly limited in its options going forward, and commented that the public service had worked hard to avoid a silo approach. He expected that eventually the WCDHS and the CoCT would have a role to play in the restitution project. He therefore asked to hear from the two institutions present about whether they were prepared for the completion of the restitution project when it came to things like service delivery, sewage collection and electricity capacity. Once the DALRRD finalised the project, the WCDHS and the CoCT needed to be ready to complete their part of the project. There would be demands on the CoCT for different developments, and he wanted to know how ready it and the WCDHS were. What work did they expect to be required?

Ms Nieuwoudt said a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) had been negotiated with the DALRRD, and she asked that it be presented.

CoCT presentation

Ms Erika Naude, Director: Urban Planning and Design, CoCT, gave the presentation. She said that the local Spatial Development Framework (SDF) provided policy direction for the nature and form of development, and guided land use and environmental decisions. The local SDF also informed strategic public and private investment initiatives, as well as the development priorities. She outlined the process to date.

She said the public realm strategy was fundamental to stitching the central business district (CBD) and District Six back together. It did not aim to compete with any vision, direction or process. Rather, it was  a sincere proposal to see new growth by working with those shared spaces and places where the past was remembered, the present was worked on, and the future was worked towards in unity. The key public places that were initially put forward were:

  • Harrington Square,
  • Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) Square,
  • Memorial Park,
  • Square and Plaza, and
  • Zonnebloem Square.

In addition to that, there were the natural systems like the natural streams and rivers that had been forgotten over the decades. The ‘Source to Sea’ elements were related to treasures -- the Castle of Good Hope, Memory of District Six and Trafalgar Park -- and the convergence of water and public space offered an incredible opportunity to heal the land and bring people closer together.

Ms Naude indicated that the inter-governmental steering committee was to be re-established, with an inter-governmental project meeting in place. The MOU sought to address the following:

  • History
  • Community dynamics
  • Regulatory aspects
  • Political aspects
  • All spheres of government
  • Multiple departments and personalities

Outlining the funding considerations, she explained that the City of Cape Town and DALRRD had pursued a Urban Settlements Development Grant (USDG) ‘top-slicing’ option that would require sanction from the national Department of Treasury and the national Department of Human Settlements, which would see funds transferred directly from Treasury to the DALRRD as part of the Division of Revenue Act (DORA) allocation. That was the City of Cape Town’s allocation, but not within its budget. Funding would primarily be for reticulation services and for a value to be determined annually, but thought to be in the region of R100 million per annum. Bulk infrastructure for future phases had yet to determined or costed, and was contingent on densities and designs. The issue was a standing agenda item on the Inter-governmental Steering Committee.

Referring to land invasions, Ms Naude said that as of 31 March, there had been 75 makeshift structures and 24 tents in the District Six area that had been erected by street people and foreign nationals. The structures were spread across 23 properties owned by the CoCT. Properties affected by the structures were land restitution claims, the CPUT, the Church of the Province of South African, and Murray and Roberts Limited. The tents would not be removed, confiscated or impounded by the Displaced People Unit during the COVID-19 national lockdown as per section 70(1), (2) and (3) of the Disaster Management Act (DMA).

In conclusion, the completion of Phase Three was required in order to transfer units to beneficiaries. The DALRRD had to be encouraged to develop the remaining units as soon as possible to secure land for the beneficiaries. The issues of land ownership, security and further development had to be resolved.

District Six Phase 3 project

Mr Rob Smith, Acting Head of Department, WCDHS, gave a background to the District Six Phase 3 project, and said that the Rural Infrastructure Development unit in the DALRRD was the development manager for District Six Phase 3, resulting in the development of 108 dwellings for eligible beneficiaries. Of these, 81 (75%) of the dwellings were to be allocated in accordance with the first dates of lodgement, while 27 (25%)  would be allocated in terms of the secondary criteria of special needs cases, which consisted of:

  • Old age
  • Infirm health
  • Indigence

The Commission would be responsible for the allocation of the 81 dwellings in terms of the date of lodgement. A panel had been appointed to process the special needs applications forms and implementation of the allocation of the 27 dwellings which had been set aside for the originally dispossessed individuals who had applied for consideration due to special needs.

Mr Smith said the status of the project was that the panel had concluded interviews with the preliminary short-listed beneficiaries and had to finalise the list and submit the Allocation Report with the names of the recommended beneficiaries to the National Minister by 30 April. The units were to be completed by mid-May.

Discussion

Mr Van der Westhuizen asked what the relationship of the two local entities was like with the DALRRD. Had they attended some of the public participatory meetings? Secondly, what next steps were expected from the DALRRD, and what was the holdup? Members had learnt the CoCT's action steps might be concluded by June or July, and he wanted to know what special planning steps would take place thereafter.

Seeing as he had joined the Standing Committee only two years ago, he asked the officials to explain what the major cause of delay was. From an outsider's perspective, all the delays seemed completely unnecessary. He was deeply perturbed by the informal settlements on the piece of land, and noted that the CoCT had approached the courts for intervention. Law abiding citizens should be encouraged, as he feared that people might perceive that those who ignored the law were rewarded. He cautioned that it could lead to civil unrest, where citizens reverted to vigilante action because the government did not protect their constitutional rights and the law of the land. He asked for an assurance from the CoCT that it would pour resources into guarding its vacant piece of land so that it would be available for the development. Was there a plan in place for the 100 structures currently on the land?

Ms Nieuwoudt said the project had been managed mainly by the WCDHS, and there were a number of accepted restitution individuals. She asked the Department to explain the process. The CoCT had availed all its available land to the restitution project. There had been a lot of infighting in the community, which had subtracted energy from the process. There was a court process which Members could be enlightened about.

On the spatial planning, she said that after the district planning process was concluded, the CoCT would embark on the creation of public open spaces, while the national Department approved the application to further develop.

Mr Pogiso Molapo, Manager: Social Housing and Land Restitution, said that restitution claims in District Six had been settled, including all lodged land claims. The land in District Six belonged to all three spheres of government in different proportions. Subsequently, all the land had been consolidated under the CoCT's custodianship for the District Six claimants. The WCDHS only signed housing units directly to claimants. Its role was to deal with the transfer of the land as it were being developed, and nothing further. The CoCT had to maintain the land to ensure it complied with by-laws. That involved cutting the grass to reduce the risk of fires, for example. Prevention of illegal occupation was also part of that. He said that the illegal occupants were removed -- those were not the usual land invaders who built proper shacks, but were people who lived underground, which was why it was a challenge to deal with them.

The Chairperson asked about the spatial planning workshop that took place on 8 December 2012, and asked the CoCT if any changes had occurred from that time.

Ms Naude said a draft spatial framework had been developed in 2012 by the DALRRD, but it was never formally approved or adopted by the CoCT as part of its frameworks and formal documents. It had obtained approval from the DALRRD that the local spatial development framework currently under way should use the 2012 documents, because many of the issues and proposals were still applicable. It had also been accepted that the plan had been widely consulted amongst the general community. Since 2012 there had been changes presented to the communities, like the water crisis, which had presented a specific opportunity to use the natural water source that flowed through the community. In 2012 there had not been a focus on the sustainability aspects of the development, and part of the CoCT's current planning principles was to focus on sustainability, which was an example of how the plan could be improved. Proposals from the engineering departments also had to be considered. In essence the 2012 document had been used as a base and was updated where developments had taken place.

On the Local Spatial Development Framework (LSDF), Ms Naude said the CoCT did not prescribe a specific building typology. It would look at highest and best use in terms of the number of units that could be provided within the area. One of key informants of the LSDF was the historical development and heritage zone applicable, so it could be replicated as much as possible. The DALRRD had been invited to, and participated in, the workshops on local spatial development where the changes had been discussed, as the developments were subject to court approval, because a court order had been obtained. One big adjustment from a shortcoming of the 2012 plan, was that it had not made sufficient provision for the public realm and spaces which had to be linked to it. That had been updated and improved in the urban form and area from the 2012 plan.

The Chairperson asked how the beneficiaries were managed, to ascertain if they were already on the database awaiting mainstream housing from the municipality, and not as part of the District Six housing restitution project. Were they vetted to avoid a duplication of claims? She was asking because the construction of the 108 houses had begun in November 2015, and by 2021 only 108 houses had been completed. Were those beneficiaries' names on the mainstream data base, or on the District Six data base, to receive the houses they were promised 30 years ago?

Ms Nieuwoudt said the City of Cape Town was aware of two groupings that were the initial and approved beneficiaries who were on the list for the District Six housing project. There was a second application for restitution, which had not been approved.

Mr Molapo added that people did not need to be on the housing database to receive restitution and were not disqualified, which meant people could be on both. There had initially been 3 000 claimants for the District Six housing restitution, but only 900 remained as some had passed on and others had received financial compensation. The CoCT was not able to build houses for the claimants because it only built subsidised housing, and as District Six claimants were not housing subsidy claimants, they did not qualify. The DALRRD had to find alternative funding to build the houses, and the CoCT could assist only when it came to a portion of the bulk services.

The Chairperson said many citizens did not differentiate between the spheres of government in their anger -- all they perceived was that it was the government in general who had taken six years to build 100 houses and who had ultimately failed them. She said there was a provincial mandate to build houses, and wanted to know why the WCDHS did not get involved with the DALRRD. She found it embarrassing that the DALRRD was not delivering on its mandate.

Mr Simmers said it was a complex situation, and he believed that the DALRRD needed to come to the table, as all three spheres of government needed to play their roles. However, the DALRRD was the lead department at the moment. He expected them to answer the difficult questions at the next meeting and concurred with the Chairperson that it was unacceptable to build 108 units in five years. His department committed to attend the next meeting.

The Chairperson commended the CoCT for attending and giving its presentation, which showed its willingness. She expressed the same sentiments to Mr Simmers and his team for fighting for the beneficiaries of District Six to receive their housing before they passed on. She hoped it would be finalised before the completion of the term.

Ms Nieuwoudt also thanked the Chairperson and Standing Committee for taking an interest in the issue.

The Chairperson suggested that Members go to the site to inspect it so they would have context when the DALRRD came to present, but unfortunately this would not be possible as the DALRRD needed to give access.

Resolution

The Standing Committee resolved to offer the DALRRD alternative dates for it to make its presentation to the Members.

The meeting was adjourned.

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