The Department of Human Settlements (DHS) gave a report-back on the petition by the Breede Valley Municipality community about the stalled building project for 652 Integrated Residence Development Programme (IRDP) subsidised houses in New Mandela Square Zwelethemba, Worcester, Western Cape. There had been building delays due to COVID-19. On 11 June 2021 there would be a meeting with the three spheres of government to reach a commitment for a construction date. Deputy Minister Pam Tshwete said a further delay in building the houses was due to the challenge of invaders. She assured the Committee that after the 11 June meeting this challenge would be addressed and construction would commence.
The Committee was disappointed by the lack of tangible progress. It resolved to get a written commitment within 30 days from the three spheres of government on the building project status.
On the Actonville petition, the Ekurhuleni Metro Council apologised for the miscommunication by the Council at the previous meeting on 12 February 2021 that a Council resolution had been taken on the new rental tariffs. This had now occurred and these had been implemented.
Members wanted to question the report but the Chairperson stated that the Committee accepts the decision of the Metro Council on rental tariffs and rates as final because this was standard procedure. However, Members argued they had the legislative authority to ask the Ekurhuleni Metro questions on the gap market, status of tenants who were middle-income earners, and on public participation inputs. This resulted in an altercation between the Chairperson and Democratic Alliance members. The Committee was split in its opinion. ANC members maintained that the Committee could not question the Council which had the final say on rental tariffs and rates. The opposition parties pointed out that the initial concern focussed on the high rental tariffs of long-tenure Actonville tenants but the Ekurhuleni progress report had not addressed this. The ANC suggested that even though the Council decision did not address the high rentals Ekurhuleni had addressed the Committee request. The matter should be closed and the petition could be escalated to another state institution. The Chairperson said Ekurhuleni had explained how the rental tariffs and rates were determined so the Committee should not revisit this but close the matter. The opposition parties maintained that since the Actonville petition focused on high rentals and rates the matter could not be closed until Ekurhuleni accounted to the Committee on this.
The Deputy Minister noted that since the Actonville residents were not the only Community Care residents (CCRs) affected, the Committee should consider social housing holistically. The Chairperson agreed but some Members stated that as much as other CCRs were challenged the agenda was the petition of the Actonville residents and Ekurhuleni had to account to the Committee. The Committee finally allowed Ekurhuleni to be questioned.
Members questioned Ekurhuleni on social housing thresholds, eviction of long-tenure tenants, public participation, new rental tariffs, electricity boxes, and how tenants unable to pay the new tariffs due to COVID-19 could be assisted.
The Committee resolved that although the Committee could not force Ekurhuleni to reduce its tariffs, it should assist citizens who could not pay the new tariffs. The assistance would be on humanitarian grounds due to lost income as a result of COVID-19. The Committee requested that Ekurhuleni not evict long-tenure tenants until after the Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA) and South African Local Government Association (SALGA) had engaged on social housing policy. The Committee resolved that the Deputy Minister, DHS and Ekurhuleni engage to ensure the tenants are assisted. The Committee resolved that long-tenure tenants that could not be assisted under the rental relief grant as their income was above R7 500 would be assisted on a case by case basis at Ekurhuleni. These tenants would not be evicted and must liaise with officials about their blocked electricity boxes.
On the Bonaero Park Petition sewer spill petition, Ekurhuleni officials who were supposed to account were not available but the National Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) made a report-back. It outlined the decisions taken both verbally and in written form by DWS after it had engaged with Ekurhuleni. It gave a status report on the implementation of DWS directive, the unsatisfactory action plan submitted by Ekurhuleni, the revised directive issued to Ekurhuleni on 19 February 2021, Ekurhuleni's response to the DWS revised directive, status of the four pump stations at Bonaero Park, Serengeti, Pomona, and Blaaupan at the 20 May 2021 DWS visit, and DWS recommendations. DWS noted that Bonaero Park covered the R21 Corridor which was earmarked for fast-tracked development to drive economic activity to the area.
The Committee was concerned by the absence of the Ekurhuleni Water team and its failure to account to Parliament. The delays in not addressing the sewer spill would increase the daily suffering of residents. It requested an update on the Urban Settlements Development Grant (USDG) funding that had been specifically released to address the spillage.
The Committee resolved that both Deputy Ministers become involved and ensure both Human Settlements and Water and Sanitation branches collaborate to ensure the reprioritised USDG funding is spent on addressing the sewage spill into homes at Bonaero Park. A deadline of two weeks was given for DHSWS to work with Ekurhuleni to bring a satisfactory action plan to the Committee and ensure the funds are not used for another project.
DHS progress report on Breede Valley Municipality community petition
Dr Zoleka Sokopo, DHS DDG: Human Settlements Delivery Framework, reported that COVID-19 had negatively impacted the completion of the stalled housing project in New Mandela Square, Zwelethemba, Western Cape. However, a meeting would take place between the Deputy Minister, MEC, Mayor and Department senior officials on 11 June 2021 to identify why the project stalled. During the meeting, all three spheres of government would approve and implement the plan of action including the appointment of a non-governmental organisation (NGO) to conduct a fresh enumeration to identify qualified beneficiaries, establish the project steering committee, packaging and costing of the project, a possible commitment on the date of construction of the 652 subsidised houses and engage with the community on why the project had stalled.
Mr M Tseki (ANC) said that the DHS report was disappointing even though the report was clear. He suggested that it give a progress report after the 11 June 2021 meeting.
Ms N Mvana (ANC) said the report did not have any tangible recommendations. The Committee can only engage after DHS makes recommendations. She agreed with Mr Tseki's proposal.
Ms M Mohlala (EFF) said DHS could not give a progress report on building the 652 IRDP subsidised houses in New Mandela Square, Zwelethemba, Worcester. She asked the Deputy Minister to clarify the reasons for the delay.
The Chairperson agreed that COVID-19 might have caused a delay but expressed concern at the delay in giving the Committee a progress report on the building project status. Although the report shows an amicable resolution has been reached, the Committee needs to get a commitment in writing from the three spheres of government on the project status within 30 days.
Deputy Minister response
The Deputy Minister said Dr Sokopo had spoken to what was delaying the building of the 652 subsidised houses in Zwelethemba. The three spheres of government have promised to appoint an NGO to check who legally needs to occupy the houses on the site as presently the Western Cape says only 37 people qualify as a result of the invasion. DHS was also disappointed but the major challenge that caused the delay is the invasion. The other challenge is three different service providers claim they are legally entitled to build the houses The NGO is also tasked to clarify who the legal service provider is. The Western Cape MEC wanted all three spheres of government to meet at the site but DHS insisted that the Western Cape engage with the community steering committee. DHS also insists that the NGO taking over must be introduced by the steering committee. She promised that her office would fast-track the process as citizens could not continue to wait for subsidised houses when the funds to build the houses were available. The challenge has been the activity of invaders which must be dealt with to ensure that legal parties work on the project. She agreed that the delay was a disappointment as the building the subsidised houses was long overdue. She promised that after the 11 June 2021 meeting the number of houses being built would increase and the number of houses built would be more than 37.
The Chairperson said the Committee would give the Deputy Minister time to address the delay and expected the three government spheres to give a clear plan of action to the Committee on how the petition can be addressed.
Ekurhuleni Metro progress report on Actonville Petition
Councillor Lesiba Mpya, MMC Human Settlements for City of Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality, tendered apologies for the MMC for Water, Sanitation and Energy and for the Municipal Head of Department. He apologised for attending the meeting in his car as his device battery life had been exhausted. He also apologised for the miscommunication between the Council and the Committee as he had insisted that Council has made a resolution at the previous meeting which was not the case. He informed the Committee that the Council had now made a resolution to approve the rental tariffs and rates after the previous meeting with the Committee and the petition had now been closed. The resolution was made by the Council on 25 March 2021 and the letter was signed by Council on 9 April 2021 and its administration has been informed and the tariffs had been implemented. This decision had been forwarded to the Committee in a report.
The Committee Secretary confirmed the report had been forwarded to Members on 27 May 2021.
Ms E Powell (DA) requested that the Chairperson allow her colleague from Ekurhuleni, Ms H Ismail (DA) to raise her concerns. She expressed concern that Mr Mpya was sitting in his car to attend a meeting. She also said it was wrong that the officials supposed to account had not sent apologies beforehand but only during the meeting. This was the second time the meeting had been postponed.
The Chairperson replied that Members were aware that network challenges occurred all the time. Mr Mpya had informed them of the reason he was attending the meeting as his battery was exhausted. He had logged in at the beginning of the meeting before the battery was exhausted.
Mr Tseki said that sitting in his vehicle to attend a meeting did not show disrespect to the Committee. He asked Ms Powell to withdraw her statement.
The Chairperson interjected and said she had addressed the matter. Challenges occur due to network instability. The Committee had needed to confirm if the Council had met to make a resolution on the rental petition. As the MMC had confirmed that the Council had made a resolution then the matter was closed.
Ms H Ismail (DA) acknowledged the MMC's apology for giving the wrong information during the previous Committee meeting but expressed concern that the petition brought to the Committee was not about the Council making a resolution on the rental tariffs or confirmation of public participation on rental tariffs. The petition raised by the people of Ekurhuleni to the National DHS was that the rental for housing units was high and the condition of the housing units was bad. She acknowledged that some of the tariffs for housing units had decreased but there were other concerns that needed clarity before the petition was closed. The reason for the petition must be understood. The MMC explained how the Ekurhuleni Metro Council arrived at the tariffs and rates in the new resolution. However, the issue of public participation was raised in the previous meeting and the Committee had mandated the Council to engage in public participation before a Council decision was made.
The Chairperson interjected and said the MMC has confirmed now that the Council had engaged in public participation. Also, the Committee decided in the last meeting that the rental petition would be closed after the Council had resolved the matter. Members should recall that the Deputy Minister had stated that rental tariffs would be decided holistically as a country. The status report by the MMC indicated that the rental tariffs had been attended to and Council had earlier explained how the rental tariffs were determined.
Ms Ismail said she had been following the meetings on rental tariffs from the beginning but the Chairperson had missed the section of the meeting where Ekurhuleni delayed the submission of the report. The reality is that the Committee needed to address the key reasons the petition was raised. Therefore, with the permission of the Chairperson, there is a need to ask the MMC some clarity-seeking questions to ensure the Committee understood how Ekurhuleni Council made the rental tariffs resolution. Although the MMC has confirmed that the Council carried out a public participation process the Democratic Alliance would like to know more about the process to ensure that due process was followed in making decisions on the rental tariffs.
These questions of clarity should be asked before the matter is closed to ensure that more petitions on rental tariffs are not made in the future. She asked the MMC to clarify how Ekurhuleni processed the public participation inputs when deciding on tariffs and rates, if Ekurhuleni considered the public participation inputs, the number of inputs considered, and confirm how many long tenure leases are available – as evictions would soon take place. For instance, during one of the radio meetings, tenants on the long tenure leases were advised to move to other housing units. Would Ekurhuleni provide alternative housing units on humanitarian grounds if these tenants are evicted? These questions are asked because the resolution passed by Council would result in evictions in the long run.
Also looking at the social housing threshold (SHT) Ekurhuleni did not consider lower-income and middle-income groups. Individuals who earn lower salaries cannot apply because they cannot afford the rent and those that earn slightly above the SHT do not qualify. This would affect a lot of the tenants who live in Ekurhuleni Council housing units. The new threshold for a social housing unit is between R3 500 and R7 500. The new rental tariff does not consider how a R3 500 earner survives in the COVID-19 era if the monthly rent is R1 015 for a three-bedroom housing unit. The rationale for comparing the rents at Ekurhuleni with other municipalities is not tenable as citizens are barely surviving due to the effects of COVID-19. She asked the MMC to clarify how Council decided on the new rental tariffs despite the public participation inputs – as the Council decision sets up tenants for eviction.
Ms Powell echoed these concerns and asked the MMC to clarify when the public participation took place, how many public submissions were received, and asked for copies of these. She asked the MMC to clarify if the fate of the incumbent tenants who had worked hard to increase their incomes. Would those tenants who now had a combined income of more than R7 500 face eviction based on the new tariffs and rates decided by the Council?
Mr Tseki said that the dynamics of the petition were now changing because Ekurhuleni had done what they were supposed to have done based on the Committee decision at the last meeting. The new matters arising from the concerns of Ms Ismail and Ms Powell indicate that the dispute should be escalated to other state institutions. The Committee should recall that the MMC said that there were different rates for different areas depending on the market value of those areas. Ekurhuleni Council has done what they were supposed to do but unfortunately the aggrieved tenants do not want to agree to the tariffs and rates and this has changed the context of the petition. He suggested that Ms Ismail go and study the Council recommendations and take another route to escalate the petition.
Ms Ismail replied that the point of the petition by Actonville tenants was the high rental tariffs and poor living conditions but the decision by Ekurhuleni Council had not addressed the high tariffs nor the bad living conditions in the housing units. This Council decision still introduces high rental tariffs which do not consider the input of tenants during the public participation.
Ms M Mohlala (EFF) was concerned that some Members did not want to address the resolutions made in the last meeting. Members should recall that during the last meeting, the Committee decided that public engagements would be held on the proposed rental tariff and repairs that the housing units need to undergo. She insisted that Ekurhuleni Council needed to submit its report on rental tariffs to the Committee as it wanted to confirm the rental tariffs have been reduced. Ms Ismail and Ms Powell’s concerns are correct. The petition is about addressing the high rental tariffs and the bad living conditions in the Ekurhuleni housing units. at the last meeting, the Ekurhuleni officials said they were discussing the matter and the Committee resolved that after the Council’s decision has been submitted to Committee, the rental tariffs would be discussed by Members. Therefore, the MMC must inform the Committee if the rental tariffs have been reduced because the residents of the housing units are paying high rental tariffs during COVID-19 and unemployment levels are high. The Committee cannot conclude the matter and merely accept that the Ekurhuleni Council has made a resolution.
The Chairperson said that if the Committee had the report at the last meeting it would have concluded the matter since the MMC had explained how rental tariffs were determined. The Committee resolution was that Ekurhuleni would take the matter to Council and the Council would make a resolution and submit the report to the Committee. Engagements on rental tariffs can only be made holistically and would involve the whole country not just Ekurhuleni alone. The Deputy Minister said that rental tariffs were different for different areas. Ekurhuleni bases the rates of its housing units on market value. The Committee can only see how the present Actonville tenants who cannot afford the new rental tariffs based on their salaries can be assisted by Ekurhuleni. The Committee cannot force Ekurhuleni to reduce the rental tariff.
Ms Mohlala said the Chairperson was responding on behalf of Ekurhuleni. She suggested that the Chairperson allow Ekurhuleni to respond by itself.
The Chairperson said she had earlier explained the rental tariff determination process as reported by Ekurhuleni in the last meeting. The Committee asked for a status update report and the MMC had submitted the report to ensure that the case was closed. Members want to reopen the discussion.
Ms Ismail said her concern was not that the Committee was reopening the discussion but that the initial petition focused on the high rental challenge of long-tenure lessees of Actonville. However, the status update report submitted by Ekurhuleni has not addressed this.
Mr Tseki said that Ms Ismail need only inform the Committee that Ekurhuleni had not addressed the pertinent rental tariff concern in the petition. However if Ekurhuleni has not addressed the the petition it does not mean the petition has not been answered. Ms Ismail can escalate the petition using another route since the reason for the petition has not been addressed.
Ms Mohlala said Mr Tseki was not supposed to speak on behalf of Ekurhuleni.
The Chairperson said Mr Tseki's suggestion was a point of exigency which she had allowed. She would not allow Ms Mohlala to continue speaking if she continued to interrupt Mr Tseki.
Ms Powell wanted to speak but the Chairperson did not give her audience.
The Chairperson said the MMC had given a status update report and the case would be closed based on Ekurhuleni Council’s resolution submitted to the Committee.
Ms Mohlala said the Chairperson should allow the MMC to speak.
The Chairperson said the MMC had briefed the Committee. Ms Ismail had indicated that the MMC had not addressed the petition on the high rental tariffs. The Committee could not force Ekurhuleni to reduce the rental tariffs just as it could not force the City of Cape Town to reduce its tariffs. These different municipalities used different systems to determine their housing rental tariffs.
Ms Ismail said there was a reason petitions were routed to Parliament. The reason was to ensure that petitions were addressed through the parliamentary committees. The Chairperson cannot say that the Committee could not assist citizens who submit petitions. When Ekurhuleni was invited to the Committee in February, it reported that after public participation Ekurhuleni would resolve the matter through a resolution. However, the resolution and the status update report by the MMC did not address the pertinent reason for the petition. Nor had the MMC responded to clarify the public participation process followed in determining the new rental tariffs, the number of inputs submitted, how many of the inputs were discussed, and the basis the Council used to approve the new rental tariffs. She was concerned that the Committee would not address the rental tariff that affected the citizens. If the Chairperson does not allow Ekurhuleni to address the petition, citizens would be evicted from their residences and alternative accommodation might not be provided for citizens.
The Chairperson said that Ms Ismail was out of order as Ms Ismail did not want to listen to her. She recalled that when the petition on high rentals at Actonville was raised, the MMC had explained how rental tariffs are determined based on Ekurhuleni’s systems. The Committee then resolved that the Council should make the final decision on rental tariffs after public participation was concluded. The MMC reported at this meeting that Council had resolved the matter. However, Ms Ismail has informed the Committee that the pertinent high rental tariff has not been addressed. If the tenants are unable to pay the new rental tariff then the Committee should intervene and find a way to ensure that Ekurhuleni assists these tenants on a case by case basis. For instance, if the tenant's salary is less than the threshold, then the tenant would be assisted to get an IRDP house if they qualify or get other government assistance as the Committee cannot instruct Ekurhuleni to reduce its rental tariffs or stop evictions.
Ms Mohlala was concerned that there was political interference in the meeting as Ekurhuleni was not allowed to respond to Members’ questions.
The Chairperson maintained that she was not interfering on behalf of the city
Ms Mohlala said that Ekurhuleni should address Members, not the Chairperson.
The Chairperson said the MMC could be allowed to brief the Committee but it would not be on the instruction of Ms Mohlala.
Ms Powell expressed concern that the legislative authority to ask officials questions on the gap market and middle-income earners and seek clarity on public participation was being abused by the Chairperson. Not at any time was it suggested that Ekurhuleni be instructed to reduce the v on the Actonville housing units. Members understood that spheres of government were separate and only Council could determine rental tariffs. Members were asking clarity questions as permitted by the legislature during meetings. During meetings, the role of the Chairperson was to act as referee, not as judge and jury. The Chairperson had not allowed the officials to respond to Members’ questions and this had occurred in past meetings. The DA was tired of the way the ANC handles matters and Members wanted this to stop.
Ms Mvana asked what the DA was tired of and what the ANC had to stop doing.
The Chairperson said Ms Powell was out of order.
Ms Powell said Members had enough examples at the Zondo Commission on the failure of the African National Congress to do its job which led to the failure of Parliament to carry out its mandate. She insisted the Chairperson allow the MMC to answer questions on the rental tariffs.
Ms Mvana insisted Ms Powell state what the DA was tired of and what the ANC had to stop doing.
Ms Powell said the ANC had to stop mismanagement and stop the abuse of due process
The altercation continued and the Chairperson said she would ask Ms Powell to leave the meeting.
Ms Powell said the DA had already reported the Chairperson to the Speaker and a letter would be sent to the Committee from her legal representatives.
The Chairperson invited Mr Mpya to respond to the questions.
Mr Mpya said Ekurhuleni did not have a problem in responding to Members' questions.
Ms Mohlala said she did not understand why the Chairperson had not allowed the MMC to respond to Members’ questions in the first place.
The Chairperson said that Ms Mohlala was out of order.
City of Ekurhuleni response
Cllr Lesiba Mpya appreciated the Chairperson for protecting Ekurhuleni. What Ekurhuleni addressed about the petition was the disparity between the impact of economic and market rental tariffs. This disparity was addressed by making both the economic and market rental tariffs uniform. The application of rental tariffs was aligned to the legislation such as the Rental Housing Act and Amendment Act, the Rental Housing Tribunal and the National Housing Code which are regulated. The report also allays fears that Ekurhuleni would be doing a mass eviction of the Actonville tenants as this would be a last resort. Ekurhuleni would only implement stringent financial and credit controls as the Act enables Ekurhuleni to run a sustainable rental housing portfolio. Members should note that the Actonville estate is not the only rental portfolio Ekurhuleni has and Ekurhuleni has to run a sustainable housing portfolio to ensure it maintains the housing units to the benefit of its tenants because they deserve a certain level of dignity.
The Chairperson thanked the MMC and said that although Ekurhuleni had responded, it did not address or provide a solution to the concerns of the people. She was concerned that Members did not merely state that the reason for the petition was not addressed and look for a way to assist by engaging with National DHS to ensure that the tenants affected are assisted. She asked the MMC to answer the public participation questions. Then the Committee can get DHS to assist.
Ms Mohlala said the MMC report sent to the Committee was not shown during the status update.
The Chairperson replied that the MMC had apologised for his flat battery when giving the status update report. Ms Mohlala should have requested the Committee Secretary to put it on screen.
Ms Mohlala thanked the Chairperson and asked for the report to be put on screen.
The Chairperson invited the Deputy Minister to address the Committee
Deputy Minister Pam Tshwete said that she had received the report but suggested that as the Western Cape petition had not yet been resolved that Parliament look at all the municipalities holistically and not single out the Ekurhuleni petition. Currently, the land invasions in the Western Cape have led to chaos within that municipality. Since the Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA) is responsible for developing appropriate tariffs, Parliament needs to invite SHRA and look at the social housing policy and assist municipalities that are challenged. Elderly people in the Western Cape had informed her office that they are being victimised and the matter has been politicised. She suggested that the rental housing tariff be looked at holistically throughout the country to ensure that all citizens are assisted. The Committee should engage with SHRA instead of putting the Chairperson in a situation of defending Ekurhuleni.
Ms Ismail wanted to interject.
The Deputy Minister told Ms Ismail to allow her to complete her comments. She re-emphasised the challenges that citizens were undergoing in the Western Cape to motivate why municipal rental tariffs should be dealt with urgently in a holistic manner.
The Chairperson thanked the Deputy Minister for her comments. Mr Tseki had said the petition had been attended to but the Council decision had not addressed the high rental tariffs. Therefore the Committee must take this up with National DHS. The Deputy Minister has also suggested that the Committee assist citizens in Western Cape who have housing challenges and the Committee must consider the policy on housing holistically. Another proposal is that the Committee should inform Ekurhuleni not to evict any tenant at the Actonville housing unit until the Committee has engaged with National DHS and resolved the housing challenges faced by citizens in the country.
Ms Ismail appreciated the Chairperson for her comments on the way forward that Ekurhuleni should not evict any Actonville tenant. She suggested the Committee inform Ekurhuleni that it should not block the electricity of long-tenure lease tenants until after the Committee had engaged with National DHS. Also the legal action against tenants should be stopped.
Ms Mohlala agreed with the Deputy Minister proposal and said that Members were not attacking Ekurhuleni but the Committee had to deal with the current petition against Ekurhuleni. The Committee would treat the petition of citizens in Western Cape the same way as it had treated that of Ekurhuleni. She was concerned about the community care (Communicare) houses in the Western Cape as citizens were treated badly and needed assistance.
Ms Powell agreed with Ms Mohlala and the Deputy Minister that the Committee needed to engage on the state of Communicare houses in the Western Cape as it was a big issue that needed to be dealt with urgently. She agreed that the meeting agenda was not on the nationwide rental tariff disparity. All Members would agree to the Committee engaging with SHRA and the Western Cape municipalities and the City of Ekurhuleni especially in line with the COVID-19 pandemic, the junk status rating and the economic challenges the country was facing. Members have had to ask Ekurhuleni questions as the agenda item is the Actonville petition. She reminded the MMC that the one-page report sent to the Committee did not answer all the questions Members had asked. The MMC needs to give information on the public participation process and clarify if tenants earning more than R7 500 would face eviction.
Ms Mvana said it was a pity that the Deputy Minister had spoken after the altercation as the statements of both the Deputy Minister and the Chairperson have addressed the petitions. She noted that the way forward has been charted and agreed to the proposal to engage SHRA on social housing rental tariffs. She did not agree that the Committee had to tell Ekurhuleni what to do about evictions.
The Chairperson appreciated the comments but noted that challenges occurred in community care houses nationwide. The Committee can invite the National DHS to engage on rental tariffs but the Committee cannot instruct municipalities how to deal with their social housing projects. She thanked the Deputy Minister for her comments. The Committee would request but not force Ekurhuleni not to evict tenants at Actonville until the Committee had engaged on the matter and come up with a solution to assist the tenants.
Ms Ismail asked for clarity on the Committee resolutions. Please confirm that the Committee has resolved that Ekurhuleni would not evict long tenure leasing tenants from Actonville social housing units and the electricity of these tenants would not be blocked during this period.
The Chairperson interjected and said the Committee could not agree with the request that the electricity should not be blocked as citizens were mandated to pay electricity bills.
Ms Ismail said this was not the case as electricity was paid for in cash but the electricity box of tenants not paying the new rental tariff was blocked. She suggested that the Committee should arrive at a base level rental tariff that must be paid by tenants to ensure that Ekurhuleni had rental income. This would ensure that Parliament does not encourage tenants not to pay any rental tariff.
The Chairperson said the Committee would request that National DHS should work with Ekurhuleni to ensure there are no evictions until the matter has been resolved. If Ekurhuleni should allocate them to the long tenure leasing tenants. Members should recall that SHRA and banks are working on assisting citizens unable to pay the new rental tariffs through the rental relief programme. She thanked the MMC and the DHS team.
Ms Powell reminded the Chairperson that the Committee still needed the MMC to provide information on public participation.
Ms Ismail proposed that timeframes be set for the resolutions from the meeting between Ekurhuleni and DHS. She asked the MMC to state how Ekurhuleni would ensure that the electricity box of tenants would not be blocked.
Mr Mpya assured the Committee that Ekurhuleni would assist the poor and provide relief to individuals who earned R7 500 and were in the high-end bracket. He welcomed the Committee engaging SHRA on the social housing policy. The Council has mandated Ekurhuleni to embark on credit control as Ekurhuleni has to ensure that tenants pay what they owe. Credit control is needed to ensure that Ekurhuleni provides citizens with social housing services.
Ms Mvana said the MMC should not take the Committee backward as the Committee is aware of the credit control measures and this is why the Committee will invite National DHS and SHRA to engage on the social housing policy. The only proposal challenged is the blocked electricity boxes of tenants who have not paid the new rental tariff.
Ms Ismail said that citizens were not allowed to apply for the rental relief programme. Hence this proposal is based on humanitarian grounds as these tenants pay for electricity with cash but Ekurhuleni blocks these people because they have not paid the new rental tariff. This is why the proposal includes a rider that tenants pay a baseline rental tariff to ensure that their electricity box is not blocked and Ekurhuleni has rental income.
The Chairperson said the MMC has stated that the tenants affected must make arrangements with the Council so that they could be unblocked. Also, rental relief grants have been arranged for tenants who cannot afford the new rental tariff due to loss of income during the pandemic. The Committee resolves that the Deputy Minister, National DHS, and Ekurhuleni engage to ensure that the tenants are assisted.
Cllr Mpya said Ekurhuleni welcomed the guidance of the Committee.
Ms Ismail asked the MMC to give clarity as the Council’s decision states that the tenants affected have to sign a new lease. If the tenants sign the new lease would the Committee resolution still hold and would the tenants still be assisted since the new lease is a legal agreement that empowers Ekurhuleni to collect the new rental tariff.
The Chairperson said the tenants had to go with their payslips to show that they are unable to pay the new rental tariff to ensure that Ekurhuleni and the Provincial DHS assist them.
Ms Ismail said the Council’s decision states that tenants that earn R7 500 cannot apply for the rental relief programme or receive exemptions. Please clarify if the salary payslip of long tenure leasing tenants is above R7 500 but the salary is less due to the COVID-19 pandemic, how will these tenants be assisted.
The Chairperson said the MMC has assured the Committee that it would assist tenants that have this challenge.
Ms Mohlala said the Committee was clear in asking Ekurhuleni to escalate rental relief assistance to tenants that had lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Chairperson said the Committee has resolved that tenants would be assisted and evictions would not take place until after Ekurhuleni and National DHS have engaged and provide a solution to the rental tariff challenges. Also SHRA and SALGA should engage on the social housing policy to ensure that service delivery of these housing entities improves.
Mr Tseki noted that Ms Ismail had received solutions to the pertinent reasons for the petition on rental tariffs. The Committee had escalated the rental tariff challenges to Ekurhuleni and National DHS. The Committee would engage with SHRA and SALGA on rental housing policy while ensuring that Ekurhuleni does not evict the tenants.
Ms Mvana agreed with Mr Tseki on the Committee resolutions but stated that evictions had already being dealt with by the Minister.
The Chairperson agreed with Mr Tseki’s summary of the resolutions.
Bonaero Petition progress report by Department of Water and Sanitation
The Chairperson said that the MMC had earlier informed the Committee that the Ekurhuleni MMC for Water, Sanitation, and Energy and the HOD would not be available. She invited the Deputy Minister to give the Committee its report.
The Deputy Minister said the DWS Acting Director-General would give the progress report.
Ms Deborah Mochotlhi, DWS Acting Director-General, said DWS had hoped that the Ekurhuleni MMC for Water, Sanitation, and Energy would be available to brief the Committee and then DWS would have responded. However, as Ekurhuleni was not available, DWS would provide its status update. DWS had engaged with Ekurhuleni and the decisions taken both verbally and in written form would be presented by Mr Justice Maluleke.
Mr Justice Maluleke from DWS said the purpose of the brief was to outline the status of DWS engagements with Ekurhuleni on the Bonaero Park Petition, provide an updated status report on the implementation of the DWS directive, the action plan submitted by Ekurhuleni to DWS, the status of the Ekurhuleni pump stations and sewer manholes affecting Bonaero Park residents in Kempton Park.
The Committee resolutions from the 12 February 2021 meeting were that Ekurhuleni and DWS engage with National Treasury to reprioritise the Urban Settlements Development Grant (USDG) and use the funds to urgently address the sewer spillages in Bonaero Park and for DWS to assist with fast-tracking the outstanding Water Use Licence Authorisation (WULA) application of Ekurhuleni. After the engagement at Parliament on 12 February 2021, the community cried out and on 19 February 2021 DWS issued a revised directive to Ekurhuleni.
Contents of revised directive
The revised directive was that Ekurhuleni ensure that it controls sewer pollution into the water resources, take reasonable measures to prevent a recurrence of sewer pollution in water resources, appoint a qualified civil engineer to conduct a detailed assessment of the sewer pipeline feeding into Bonaero; Pomona and Serengeti pump stations, submit the new action plan with a budgetary provision that would be implemented to deal with the problems of wastewater backflow to the residents, ensure that effluent discharged by industries meets the effluent discharge permit standards set by the municipality, and submit a progress report on implementation and compliance with the conditions of the Water Use Licence Number: 03/A21B/1/9302 issued by DWS.
Ekurhuleni response to DWS revised directive
Ekurhuleni responded with a letter dated 3 March 2021 which indicated the following recurrent operational challenges on the Blaaupan sewer line. The challenges were that food processing industries around the area deposited fatty effluent, collapsing sewer infrastructure, and entry of water via the manholes, particularly during the rainy season. Ekurhuleni stated that the project required specialist studies such as water use licence agreements (WULA), the issuance of environmental impact assessment (EIA) permits, and the assurance that documents required for those authorisations were ready. The target date for approval of the WULA and EIA is December 2021 but Ekurhuleni made a request to DWS for an exemption on the WULA application in order to continue with the project and made proposals on sewer line constructions to relieve the pressure on the sewer line running along Aeroparque Street.
An evaluation of the reports provided by Ekurhuleni showed that despite the Ekurhuleni claim that it had set target dates and drawn up action plans for design of a replacement line, specialist studies for EIA and WULA, and public participation for EIA and WULA on the Blaaupan 1km Sewer – these action plans and designs were not submitted to DWS.
DWS in a bid to assist issued Ekurhuleni a directive to request an action plan on how it would address the challenges of the sewer drain spillage. Ekurhuleni responded by setting a 2022 timeframe for completion. DWS did not accept this timeframe due to the urgency of the petition. Follow-ups up to date indicate that Ekurhuleni has not reprioritised the Urban Settlements Development Grant (USDG) funds.
Bonaero Park sewer outfall pump station system
The status of the pump station infrastructure as of 20 May 2021 is that there was not much progress as the R143m funds are not available to complete the project in 18 months although the project is implementation ready. There are traces of sewer spillage and pooling from the Aeroparque Street sewer line. The project has not started because the Marignane Drive sewer line needs an upgrade. Ekurhuleni has not yet reprioritised the USDG.
Serengeti pump station
This pump station is fairly new and working properly and the sewer spillage did not affect this facility. However, only one pump was operational. A standby generator is in place but was found not to be operational.
Pomona pump station
The station has two pumps and during the visit only one of the pumps was operational with the other pump not functioning. Sewage was overflowing from the manhole next to the pump station into the stream which leads into the Rietvlei Dam which is the water source for the City of Tshwane. There is frequent overflow of sewage at the pump station due to power failures as there is no standby generator. DWS is concerned that there was no backup generator for emergencies when the electricity failed and the pump station did not have a second pump backup. In a bid to fix the challenges, Ekurhuleni has proposed a by-pass be made from Pomona to the Serengeti pump station and the time frame is 18 months. The project can be completed immediately if funds are available. DWS requested that Ekurhuleni reprioritises the USDG but Ekurhuleni has not reprioritised the USDG.
Blaaupan pump station
This is the only problematic pump station. Ekurhuleni in a written submission requested a water use licence exemption on this station. The legislation does not allow a water use licence exemption but because DWS is dealing with a sewer spillage emergency and since the Blaaupan pump station was not part of the pump stations that needed the water use licence based on DWS 2012 directive, DWS issued a revised directive. This is to ensure that Ekurhuleni craft an action plan on how to reprioritise its USDG. Unfortunately DWS has not received a timeline and action plan so the project has stalled.
Although Ekurhuleni submitted an action plan to DWS, the interim measures do not address the sewer spillages that continually reoccur. The country is lucky that this is not a rainy season when the rainy season returns flooding would reoccur if Ekurhuleni does not remedy the situation. During the last visit, DWS noticed that a consultant had been appointed by Ekurhuleni on 21 May 2021, however, Ekurhuleni needs to give the appointed consultant stringent timelines. DWS would work with the consultant to ensure the process to compile the authorization application is fast-tracked.
Ekurhuleni was supposed to have installed a new sewer line to divert effluent away from the problematic Bonaero Park sewer line but this was not accomplished because the private funders have not released funds. Ekurhuleni would need to negotiate with the funders to ensure that the pumps are installed. DWS has recommended that Ekurhuleni constructs second pumps at Pomona and Serengeti pump stations and address the need for standby working generators at the pump stations during power failures. If Ekurhuleni does not comply with these recommendations, DWS might consider enforcement action against Ekurhuleni through litigation and court orders. The court order would ensure that Ekurhuleni implements the action plans and follows the specified timelines. In conclusion, the Committee should note that the area covers the R21 Corridor an area earmarked for development that needs fast-tracked development to ensure that economic activity happens in the area.
The Chairperson appreciated the update report on the Bonaero Petition and reminded Members that Ekurhuleni Water and Sanitation had tendered apologies and was not available.
Ms Mohlala said this engagement was a waste of time if Ekurhuleni was not available to account. The Committee should be asking Ekurhuleni for the EIA documents on the pump stations especially Bonaero Park which was built on a wetland. DWS made recommendations to assist Ekurhuleni but Ekurhuleni did not submit the documents. This is why DWS is saying it has no option but to litigate to ensure the documents are made available and hold Ekurhuleni accountable for its action plan. Ekurhuleni should have been present.
Ekurhuleni should account to the Committee why the documents cannot be submitted. It should state why it is not reprioritising the USDG funds as recommended by DWS. In the previous meeting, Ekurhuleni complained about a lack of funds to a tune of about R12bn needed to fund all its projects. Members are confused because even if the funds are available, taxpayers’ money might be wasted if the EIAs are not available. There is no assurance that appropriated funds would be used to complete the projects. By not being available, Ekurhuleni is trying to avoid accounting as it has not submitted the EIAs or given DWS a suitable action plan.
Mr Tseki agreed with Ms Mohlala that the unavailability of Ekurhuleni was a challenge as Members could not question Ekurhuleni and hold Ekurhuleni accountable. He suggested that DWS continue interacting with Ekurhuleni so that in future meetings DWS would be able to give the Committee a better status update and clarify why Ekurhuleni has not been able to implement its action plan. It is a concern that Ekurhuleni is not available. The Committee must reschedule the meeting for Ekurhuleni to account and ensure that the sewer spillage at Bonaero Park is addressed. DWS should be mandated to continue working with Ekurhuleni in a supervisory role.
Ms G Tseke (ANC) agreed with these concerns and Mr Tseki's suggestions.
Ms Ismail expressed deep concern that Ekurhuleni had not appeared to account to the Committee as Members had awaited the meeting for some time. Ekurhuleni was supposed to give the Committee a report on its plans to mitigate the sewer spillage at Bonaero Park. Another concern is that Ekurhuleni did not honour the DWS directives and the delays would increase the daily suffering of residents. She had constantly received photos where sewage flowed into people’s homes which was unacceptable. She agreed with other Members that there nothing much that the Committee could do but suggested that the National DWS had to put a mechanism in place to ensure that Ekurhuleni was held accountable for the sewage spill into homes.
Ms Mvana said Ekurhuleni had to respond to DWS. When DWS attends meetings with Ekurhuleni it must ensure that it puts timeframes to its action plan. She suggested that there be consequence mechanisms to punish actions that lead to sewage spill into homes.
The Chairperson recalled that when the Committee met with Ekurhuleni in February, the Department CFO reported that DWS in conjunction with the National Treasury would be reprioritising the USDG funds. The Committee had requested that DWS assist Ekurhuleni with funds to address the sewage spill into Bonaero Park homes that led to the petition. She asked DWS for an update on the engagements between DWS and Treasury on the USDG funds.
Department & Ministry response
Department CFO, Ms Funani Matlatsi, replied that DWS had assisted Ekurhuleni. The amount was finalised with Treasury and R300m was transferred to Ekurhuleni before the 2020/21 year ended. Subsequently, DWS wrote to Ekurhuleni based on the Committee resolution that Ekurhuleni should reprioritise the funds appropriated by Treasury to address the sewage spill into the Bonaero Park homes. She confirmed that Ekurhuleni had received the R300m and written communication was forwarded to Ekurhuleni. Both the Provincial Ministry and the Committee received a copy of the communication.
The Chairperson thanked the CFO for the update.
Ms N Sihlwayi (ANC) suggested that when National DWS intervenes, it must always protect itself by ensuring the Provincial DWS is fully briefed and on board. In future, National DWS should not accept unsatisfactory reports from the Provincial DWS because it leaves National DWS with the predicament of correcting something that does not concern National DWS.
Deputy Minister Tshwete agreed that National DWS should not accept unsatisfactory reports from the Provincial DWS because it was unfair. Ekurhuleni has to be monitored and evaluated on how it spends appropriated funds but it does not want to account. National DWS should not continually have to pamper Ekurhuleni. She invited Ms Mochotlhi to comment.
DWS Acting DG, Ms Mochotlhi, reported that in this case DWS acts as a regulator to Ekurhuleni as Ekurhuleni is not a small municipality. DWS can go to all the lengths to assist small municipalities but in the case of big municipalities like Ekurhuleni, the assistance ends with regulating its activities. When Ekurhuleni presents its action plan, DWS will access the action plan to ensure it will be able to mitigate the challenge. Unfortunately, Ekurhuleni did not even honour what they presented to DWS. Mr Justice Maluleke concluded that DWS had no choice but to take the matter to court. The Committee should note that supervising Ekurhuleni like other metropolitan municipalities is bound by the Inter-Governmental Relations (IGR) Act. When DWS goes through the IGR legal process, the environment and water get negatively impacted. The briefing did not indicate the impact of the sewage spills which affects the Hartebeesfontein area. The Committee will recall DWS informed it about eutrophication in dams which has health implications for users. DWS had said that it had a mitigation programme in place but this will not work until the sewage spill is addressed.
The Committee should note that taking the matter to court does not solve the challenge immediately. The challenges include the offender insisting that as the matter is in court, the process is stalled. The environment will suffer, residents will suffer as the matter drags out in the courts because the country does not have specific environmental courts. By the time the matter is finalised, the city manager and the line official responsible in DWS might have been transferred and this delays the process. What National DWS does initially is to persuade the city manager to fix what needs to be fixed. The National Water Act makes provision for DWS to move in and correct the situation and then claim from the offender – in this case Ekurhuleni. However, National DWS intervenes in so many municipalities which makes the National DWS mandate suffer. National DWS is handicapped because it suffers from lack of funds. It is not advisable or ideal to intervene in another sphere of government. The situation is not as simple as it seems. However, National DWS is trying its best and will go back to engage with Ekurhuleni. If DWS does not get Ekurhuleni to commit to the timelines, it would have to go through a lengthy court process.
The Chairperson thanked the Acting DG. When the Committee met with Ekurhuleni in February, it had emphasised that it lacked funds to work on its projects and DWS had agreed to go back to the USDG to see if Ekurhuleni could be assisted. The CFO has confirmed that Ekurhuleni received the funds and it was informed that the funds should be used to address the sewage spill.
The Committee appreciates the Department releasing R300m to Ekurhuleni. The Committee requests that both the Human Settlements and Water and Sanitation branches of the Department collaborate to monitor how the funds are spent and ensure they are used to address the sewage spill. Ekurhuleni must prioritise the Committee resolution which includes dealing with the sewage overflow into homes that affects human rights and address the wetlands treatment plan. The Committee knows that Ekurhuleni has the capacity to undertake this project as its company City of Ekurhuleni Water Care Company (ERWAT) assisted the Tshwane municipality in the past with its water treatment challenges at the Vaal River. The Committee resolves that a deadline of two weeks be given for the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation (DHSWS) to work with Ekurhuleni to bring a satisfactory action plan to the Committee. The satisfactory action plan must outline what Ekurhuleni will do with the R300m it received.
Ms Ismail agreed with the Chairperson’s two-week timeframe but was concerned that Ekurhuleni contravened the EIA Act. She suggested that Ekurhuleni be invited to the Committee to brief it on how it will spend the money released by DHSWS.
Ms Tseke agreed with the proposals.
The Chairperson said that the entire DHSWS must follow up on the usage of the funds. If Ekurhuleni did not have an action plan, DWS officials must assist Ekurhuleni with the re-prioritisation to ensure the funds would not be used for another project. In two weeks, the CFO and the Acting DG will be invited to engage with the Committee while Ekurhuleni would be present to account. That meeting in two weeks time will be useless if DHSWS has not monitored Ekurhuleni. If ERWAT still exists, it should be able to assist Bonaero residents by ensuring that the sewage spill is addressed.
Deputy Minister Tshwete agreed to the Committee resolutions and said the duty of National DWS was to monitor the use of the funds. National DWS will ensure after monitoring that the action plan is submitted to the Committee in two weeks.
The Chairperson said that the emphasis was that both Human Settlements and Water and Sanitation branches of DHSWS would collaborate and monitor the use of the funds at Ekurhuleni. Therefore Deputy Minister Tshwete has to work with Deputy Minister David Mahlobo to ensure that the funds released are reprioritised to address the sewer overflow into residential homes.
The meeting was adjourned.
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