Department of Human Settlements; Western Cape Rental Housing Tribunal 2020/21 Annual Report

Human Settlements (WCPP)

02 February 2022
Chairperson: Ms M Maseko (DA)
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Meeting Summary

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Western Cape Annual Reports 2020/21

The Committee met to discuss the Annual Reports for the Department of Human Settlements and its entity in the Western Cape Rental Housing Tribunal for the 2020 / 2021 financial year.

Some emerging themes were distribution backlogs, land invasions, discrepancies in reconciling housing and title deed transfers, allocation to beneficiaries, as well as quality of construction, maintenance and staffing matters.

Members proposed resolutions dealing with breakdown of the compensation provided to Rental Housing Tribunal members and the number of hearings attended; clearing the title deed backlog; reconciling housing distribution and title deed transfers; advantages and disadvantages of alternative construction methods; projects where illegal occupation has caused problems and those where there has been an orderly process; fraudulent activities with housing waiting lists in municipalities and using online registration of housing beneficiaries to combat this.

Meeting report

The Chairperson indicated that the hybrid meeting rules apply. She noted that they were missing a sign language interpreter but decided to proceed with the meeting.

Opening remarks by Western Cape Human Settlements MEC
MEC Tertius Simmers said 2020/21 was unique and challenging due to COVID-19. There has been a massive increase in the number of land invasions and a shift in community dynamics partially caused by need but also massively by those that saw an opportunity to benefit from the COVID-19 regulations. There were challenges on several projects which affected pipelines and output delivery but also some successes and the team is now ready for the new year.

The Department managed to deliver 12,764 housing opportunities together with their partners. A total of 6,352 title deeds in various categories were delivered, which is a cornerstone of the provincial government plan for security of tenure through homeownership. There was purchase empowerment because they believe that ownership is empowerment. There was an improvement in empowerment opportunities created for contractors and women in construction, achieving a 14% rate that exceeds the 10% target in the Annual Performance Plan (APP). In youth representation which had a target of 4%, they managed to attain 5% as the target was 800 job opportunities but 937 job opportunities were created. Even though it was a challenging year, through innovation and working closely with partners, the targets were met. It was noted that the impact of governance instability in local government administration prolonged some of the processes. This is because more than 60% of processes leading up to implementation is vested in local government and limited the Department’s ability to deliver on the projected output for the 2020/21. (Poor audio 12:15-12:50). He continued that although it was a challenging year, he was proud of the Annual Report and happy to take questions.

Department of Human Settlements 2020/21 Annual Report
Ms Phila Mayisela, Acting Head of Department, noted the Department had a reduction in the budget of about R351 million due to the COVID-19 pandemic. About R350 million was spent protecting sites from land invasion and only R82 million was recovered from the municipalities that agreed to provide security on their sites. The money spent on security was an opportunity lost for the department.

She went over the infographic outlining performance. The first section of the infographics detailed how the budget was spent. R2.4 billion was received and R2.3 billion was spent below that equates to about 98%. The under expenditure was due to delays in statutory processes. The outcomes of the spending of the grants was improving ICT efficiencies, livable neighbourhoods, access to adequate housing, opportunities for citizens in the Western Cape and security of tenure through homeownership. She highlighted the activities linked to the expenditure (see document).

Another important achievement was the ability to pay 98% of all the invoices within 30 days. This assisted contractors to ensure they have a positive cash flow. The Department held six municipal engagements at the regional level. This included a summit hosted by the MEC at Goudini, where all the municipalities discussed their housing challenges. A task team was set up to look at these  and it was agreed to continue to implement the hybrid model. As the Western Cape, the hybrid model addresses instances where the municipalities cannot step into the system and those municipalities that have the capacity would continue to implement some aspects.

During Lockdown Levels 5 and 4, the outreach programs to communities led by the MEC continued. This was important following the direction from National Department which emphasized focusing on providing housing opportunities to vulnerable groups.

• The knowledge management projects are linked to improving ICT efficiencies and the systems were upgraded for information sharing.
• In livable neighbourhoods, one integrated implementation plan was completed. Even though the target of one seems low, work is being done to ensure expansion so service providers were appointed to assist in ensuring the target is increased.
• On ensuring alignment of national and provincial priorities, 10 new projects were approved. With the nature of the work, most project approval happens two or three years before the actual implementation.
• On providing support, all 25 municipalities received support by having monthly engagement as a department within municipalities where the teams from all the directories would engage with the municipalities on concerns that have to do with human settlements development. The existing challenges are looked into to see how they can be solved.
• Research and policy play an important role and one research paper and one policy guideline was delivered and the details of that work are contained in the report.

Only 6 200 units were delivered against a target of 8 500 housing opportunities. The reasons for not delivering are due to a late start given the pandemic on some of the contracts and during Lockdown Levels 5 and 4, no construction work was permitted. Thereafter the contractors had to put COVID protocols in place which also took time. Small companies were assisted to ensure they were compliant. Another prominent problem in the space is the poor performance of the contractors. Resources are being looked at to support these contractors and to understand why they are performing poorly on the projects.

In 2020/21 there was 67% spending of the Human Settlement Development Grant (HSDG) towards SME contractors against the target of 50%, looking at the five years it equates to R5.6 billion spent on the contractors.

The designated groups, women and youth contractors, were supported for the first time. The target was exceeded which was 10% for women but they managed to achieve 40%. For the youth, the target was 4% and they achieve 5% with 937 jobs against a target of 801.

The training of young people was underachieved as 56 young people were trained within the built environment, against a target of 150. The reason was that one could not have contact sessions with the learners. The intervention for people who lost their jobs during COVID will be presented in the current financial year report.

In Sustainable Building Technologies, a target of 5 035 against 1 000 was achieved. 1 035 houses were built using sustainable building technologies, against a target of 1 000

When it comes to security of tenure, a target of 6 352 title deeds issued against a target of 8110 was achieved. The unmet target was because the Deeds Office was closed and a backlog was created. Another factor was that the municipalities seemed to be struggling with this.

Discussion
Mr A van der Westhuizen (DA) acknowledged that it was an abnormal year. Contractors were prevented from being on site due to lockdown and they struggled to find building materials in sufficient quantities which caused delays.

He noticed that the infographic figures were missing three zeros, it had to be R24 million and not R24 000 and demanded that they should be accurate. Also, the percentages on page 15 and 16 in the Annual Report were not accurate.

He asked about the mechanism to cancel the contract if the contractor does not deliver. If they include strong enough clauses in the construction agreement with the contractor, it makes it relatively easy to cancel such contract.

He knows that the Department of Public Works has indicated in the past that some contractors have been extorted by mafia-like organizations, and that, in some cases, construction work comes to a complete standstill, because these criminals have forced contractors to pay protection money or to employ people beyond what the contract says or they are forced to employ people that those criminals suggest. He asked the extent to which this has become a problem and if there have been such cases in the Western Cape in the year under review.

Mr van der Westhuizen referred to the bedrock of the title deed transfer. The Deeds Office had been experiencing serious problems during the COVID-19 closure. He asked for a status update – are they winning the backlog or losing? Is the backlog growing or declining?

He congratulated the Department for the achievement of alternative building methods and asked if the houses built by these methods have been accepted by the beneficiaries.

Mr D America (DA) acknowledged that 2020/21 was a difficult financial year and the Department has not done badly in such a context.

He asked if the under-delivery of young people will be compensated for in 2021/22. He noted the overachievement in both women and youth contractors and asked for the monetary value of the contracts for those two sectors.

He asked what the sustainable building technologies were that were used and how these products received by the beneficiaries.

He requested the Department to comment on the impact of the new localization regulations by the Department of Trade and Industry, particularly for cement. What impact will it have on the cost and the speed of delivery?

Are there critical positions the Department has not filled due to budget constraints. Is the past underspending on cost of employment related to budget cuts that needed to be implemented as a result of national directives? If so, will that present a different scenario in new financial year?

He asked the status of the accreditation process for municipalities that applied for Level 2 status.

Mr P Marran (ANC) asked about the failure by the Department to table the Annual Report on time. In the targets set for housing opportunities, what were the other 5 697 housing opportunities? The Department is blaming the Deeds Office and COVID-19 but the title deeds challenge started in 2014 and it is still complaining about it in 2022. He asked for the backlog number of pre-2014 deeds and asked why the target for pre-2014 deeds was set at only 1 000.

Mr Marran commented on the underspending on compensation of employees. He foresees that money will be surrendered to the Revenue Fund. Even though there are complaints about the capacity of municipalities, it seems the Department itself lacks capacity and it must take full responsibility. He asked why the 40 to 50 houses were not handed over in December 2020.

Mr van der Westhuizen welcomed the criticisms of the Department performance but the complexity of the partnerships is a contributing factor – one of them being the contractors that the Department or the municipalities appoint. Many municipalities struggle with certain units built in 2014 that are no longer being occupied by beneficiaries and the municipality has a key role to play in finalising those processes. Localization has had a great impact on processes in all provincial departments. As for cancellations in 2020/21, this was because some of them had massive implications on community unrest and poor delivery which also led to attempted invasions on one specific site.

Department response
Ms Mayisela, Acting HOD, acknowledged that there are mechanisms when contractors fail to deliver on the site, and it is embedded in the contracts and dispute resolution mechanisms and contracts have been terminated. There is however no formal process to be followed with other processes which have to be followed to see the termination to conclusion and it requires a reconciliation of materials on-site and all of that usually takes time. Contracts can be terminated.

Extortion is a risk and the province has been impacted. One is emerging as a construction cartel and it has affected some of the sites.  When the business forum in the construction cartel wants to be gatekeepers it becomes a problem but it is being dealt with legally. The cost that comes with it is that from time to time security on the site has to be enhanced to protect the staff.

Mr Roy Stewart, Director: Land and Asset Management, WCHS, commented on the title deed backlog. The system tracks projects from 1994 to the present every quarter. The municipalities however do not have access to that data and so the province helps the municipalities keep track of the backlog. The provincial target is set at 1 000 but the backlog is full of contested title deeds. The province held meetings with municipalities that had over 1 000 title deeds in their backlog. They are working with them to help address situations where people are occupying property but do not have a proper title deed but have lived there for over twenty years. Many of the municipalities have a shortage of skilled people to handle the work. The Title Deed Restoration Grant (TDRG), which has currently been terminated, allowed the Department to reserve funds and have more flexibility in coordinating the systems in each municipality. The Deeds Office has managed to appoint a senior member who has direct communication with municipalities and gives assistance for any issues that arise.

Ms Mayisela replied that there was resistance to the alternative building technologies (ABT) and it is still seen. They started with a project 10 years ago. People are starting to accept the product in Delft. Some people have extended their houses and invested in those properties. It is going to take some time because the perception is that if it is not bricks and mortar, it is not good quality. Work is done on consumer education to inform beneficiaries that the technologies and the systems used are just as good compared to bricks and mortar. The projects implemented have been in Greenville Garden City, within the City of Cape Town, and the houses have been handed over and the beneficiaries have been living in those houses and there have not been any complaints. She noted also Forest Village in George. The challenge initially was there were problems with the roll-out of the development of the product by the suppliers. This is linked to the training of the local labour on how to utilize alternative building technology. Working with partners, more will be done to ensure that there is training and awareness.

The contract value for women contractors at 14% equates to R270 million and youth contractors  at 5% equates to R93 million.

The localization requirement is a challenge and the Western Cape government infrastructure department has been to engage with National Department because it places an administrative burden on the contractors. After all, they have to verify, for example, the bag of cement and quantify the cement that will be used and provide certification that it meets the requirements. The instruction received was that they asked for exemption but it has to be dealt with by DTIC. That had an impact on the processes to conclude procurement and that delayed the Annual Report.

To Mr Marran’s question on figures, Ms Mayisela referred to page 54 under Integrated Residential Development Programme (IRDP), 4 001 houses were built and on page 55, 1 148 were delivered utilizing the PHP program giving the 5 000 indicated.

Ms Mayisela acknowledged the failure of the Department in delivering housing units. In trying to resolve the challenge, one manages the poor performance using the provisions of the contract, but it is not simply a matter of writing to the contractor to say walk off the site. Doing that may cause the contractor to come back and claim for damages from the Department which is not the desired outcome. The issue was dealt with and the management contractor was currently on-site and actually aims to deliver the first phase of 190 units by May 2022. The reason for pushing it is that it is desired that everything is handed over at once. It is also linked to the electrification process because the electrification has been managed by the municipality. The appointment of the contractor to electrify was concluded in December.

On reasons for the delay in submitting the Annual Report, Ms Mayisela replied that it was signed off in October 2021. The delay relates to some of the issues around localization requirements which would have been material if they had not been dealt with timeously. The Report was ready to be presented to the Committee at the end of 2021 but WCHS was informed to present in 2022.

Mr Francois de Wet, WCHS CFO, replied about Compensation of Employees (COE) that the Department currently can only appoint about 380 positions because it cannot afford to commit to hiring more people over the long term. The 2021/2022 budget alludes to the shortfall on COE and it would have been really bad to appoint people that the Department cannot pay. At present, the ceiling is R230 million and current staff cost R249 million and further cuts need to be made.

Ms Mayisela replied that the title deed backlog is currently at 63 000, that includes pre 2014 and post 2014 and there are several reasons for the delay. To assist the municipalities, an amount of R41 million will be transferred as part of the title deeds restoration programme. Municipalities’ struggle seems to be a combination of capacity plus the contested title deeds. The Department has taken the decision to appoint professional resource teams to assist the municipalities to reduce the backlog. Title deeds has also been institutionalized. Currently, it is trading over Programmes 3 and 4 but going forward it will sit in Programme 4 which will ensure it is better managed to eradicate the backlog.

Further discussion
Mr Marran appreciated the responses given. He asked and received clarity from Mr Stewart that the pre-2014 backlog is 8 000 title deeds. The target for those should be 8 000 not 1 000. He would understand if the problem is the municipalities. But it would make more sense if the target was set at 8 000, underperform and give an explanation – that would be more acceptable. It is unacceptable to set the target so low and overachieve with 3 598.

Mr van der Westhuizen thanked Mr Marran for concentrating on the title deeds. The longer one waits to transfer title deeds, the more problems they will experience in tracing the beneficiary of that title deed. That is the reason to concentrate on this. He rephrased the question if they were winning on addressing the backlog. Will the backlog have been addressed in three to four years? Some title deeds have not been delivered to the people and the problem is going to become worse unless massive effort is put to trace them. Secondly, how can the process of title deed delivery be streamlined? How can it be ensured that when the keys are handed over to new units, the necessary paperwork is already in place and the details of the people are available? They would be halfway to registering that property into that beneficiary's name and the only delay should be the normal deeds office delay.

Last year was unique due to COVID which led to underperformance. The question is has WCHS been able to turn that around or does it expect another year of underperformance due to circumstances beyond its control?

The Chairperson wondered why no example was given of the transfer of the land parcel where the housing projects were implemented. Was there a delay to try and ensure that there are funds available for the title deeds transfer or does that not impact on it?

MEC Simmers explained to Mr Marran that there is a difference between a legally registered company versus illegal community business development forums which are illegal structures that seek to extort and block progress on specific sites. They were not able to address the backlog. Looking back at the houses post-2014 to 2019, he commissioned a sample test in one provincial project within the City’s boundaries to test why there is a struggle with title deeds. Similarly, since 2019, as provincial minister in the Western Cape he has been advocating even when people were out of the units. He wants the right to take back the units and give them to a qualified beneficiary who wants the house. Focusing on post-2014, there are great examples of acceleration in title deeds transfer. One example is the Golden Valley project where the title deeds were given on the day the beneficiaries moved in. In another example, the beneficiaries waited just eight weeks before getting the title deeds in 2018. In the first quarter of 2020, title deeds were handed over. In these examples, it is because the beneficiaries were known and the municipal planning processes were done effectively. That is the best way to move forward. Having engaged the mayor in 2020, there will be a very short space of time between the beneficiary taking occupancy of the unit and receiving the title deed. All in all, Human Settlements is taking the matter of title deeds and ownership very seriously.

Ms Mayisela agreed that there is a need to streamline the title deed transfer process. The Department's decision that title deeds are managed by one component as opposed to two directorates is one such move. After the appointment of professional resource teams within the first quarter of 2022/23, this would enable the allocation of resources to each region and to drill down on all the projects delivered to understand the reasons the title deeds were not issued. It will be several reasons such as national Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) land transfers or ownership, contested ownership, township registrations and so forth.

Ms Mayisela requested time to put together a plan to address the backlog. They will come back and present a political plan to change things around. It will be ensured that everything is included in the audit process of the Department post the finalization of the appointment of the resource teams. The report will cover all aspects. She agreed with the Chairperson that the transfers of land parcels should have been included. The Housing Development Agency (HAD) was engaged to assist in unlocking a particular matter and WCHS has written to DPWI to try and unlock and resolve these. That is an avenue that has been agreed to be explored in terms of the implementation protocol with the housing development agency. They have made headways but still need to finalize the paperwork.

Western Cape Rental Housing Tribunal 2020/21 Annual Report
Tribunal Chairperson, Mr Lionel Esterhuizen, spoke about the COVID-19 and the difficulties it caused in the operations of many organisations. The Tribunal was not in operation for about three months. Even with the challenges, some benefits and a lot of improvements came from it because they were forced to do things differently. From the figures, one could see that they still operated in offering advice to people who inquired. From June 2020, the full range of services were provided. In the previous meeting with the Committee, it requested some improvements to the reports such as an organogram to provide details of the Tribunal members and the staff.

In 2020/21 there was a reduction in the number of complaints received which was strange due to the disruption of people losing their jobs and so on. There was an increase in spoliation cases but these were dealt with by the staff and without a hearing by the tribunal to make a ruling. The staff were very proactive in assisting parties to come to a solution during the lockdown period after opening in June. Therefore, the figures might be a bit skewed where a lot of inquiries where dealt with. However, the figures were a bit alarming from the call centre. In 2019/20 there were about 10 000 calls that came through to that call centre but in 2020/21 only 1392 calls came through. Why such a large reduction since people did not have to go out to make inquiries? There was an inquiry investigation to the provincial Help Desk call centre to ask them the reason but the Help Desk responded they were on duty and received work calls and it was just a matter of people not inquiring.

Mr Esterhuizen said on the number of Communicare matters which had been a topic of concern in the Committee and in the media, 616 complaints were finalized. Only four matters remain. These have been previously communicated to the Committee that the big delay in finalizing these matters are the community dynamics it was and still it experiencing such as requests for postponements. However, all the complaints will be finalized and rulings issued.

Discussion
Mr van der Westhuizen noted that the decrease in the number of calls is against the trend one would expect since many people are having financial problems and many are at home. He asked if this reduction was being investigated. Have you received feedback from the officials that intimately work with this every day about what they believe could be the cause? Is the trend expected to continue because a reduction over 40% is incredible.

On the outstanding complaints received which have not been attended to or have not been resolved, it is known that the Tribunal has struggled to deal with its backlog - which are cases older than 90 days. On page 12, it states the backlog is coming down considerably – no doubt because of the reduced number of complaints. Can you give an indication of the size of the backlog.

On vacancies, to what extent is your work negatively influenced by the delays in filling those vacancies and do you have any recommendations on this? Were those vacancies part of the limiting factors in addressing the number of cases?

To what extent has the move to online sittings of the Tribunal improve the productivity of the Tribunal?

Mr America echoed the concern about the backlog of cases and asked about innovative ways to address this. In the previous annual review, it was resolved that the report needed a breakdown of the compensation paid to the various Tribunal members and the number of hearings they have participated in. The report did not address that. Lastly, on the review applications for indigent parties, it is an expensive exercise to approach the High Court for every review application. It is also known that the implementation date of the Rental Housing Amendment Act of 2014 has not been announced yet which includes amendments about review applications and the rental housing tribunals. He asked if the Tribunal has engaged with the Office of the Attorney General or the Presidency on why the implementation date had not been implemented yet.

Mr Marran said he has a concern about Communicare after reading on Facebook that many tenants complain about the abuse by Communicare. What complaints were dealt with by the Tribunal and how were they handled. He asked what shortages in the Tribunal led to backlogs.
The Land Claims Court dealt with the evictions by Communicare and the court instructed the Deeds Office to establish if Communicare is the legal owner of land and buildings it claims to own. However, it has been a couple of months now and no response seems to have been given by the court yet on the matter. He asked the Tribunal to comment.

The Chairperson said the costs attached to communication services were too high compared to 2019/20, yet the number of calls in the current year is less than back then. She said something must be wrong with the high costs.

Tribunal response
Tribunal Chairperson, Mr Esterhuizen,  replied about how the vacancies affected the operations. In the first quarter of the year, there were four Tribunal members, with no alternative member to attend hearings, but the Tribunal managed through the year to exceed the hearings that were held in previous years. On page 13, under Table 6, is a set out of the general hearings. During this period, although there were no hearings from March until June, the Tribunal still managed to have 635 hearings for the year because the number of days for the sessions were increased from 3 to 5 days per week and more hearings were held per day. The Tribunal focused on the Communicare hearings Although there were vacancies, they worked harder with the Tribunal members attending more hearings and the members were asked to be more available.

To what extent online Tribunal sittings affect productivity, it is a convenience and cost savings for the parties involved because they do not have to travel to the Tribunal. People from out of town and even abroad could attend the online platform and that did increase productivity. However, the public do not all have hold good equipment and connectivity so it is a challenge for the Tribunal to accommodate everyone online. There are a lot of disruptions because of poor network connections. Some people are accommodated through WhatsApp which is innovative. It was found that the Microsoft Teams platform is a bit of a challenge for the public as they tend to be more familiar with Zoom and Google Meet compared to Microsoft Teams. All in all, the online sittings were a benefit and the setbacks and frustrations with bad connectivity are being dealt with.

The Tribunal Manager responded to the questions on administration. On the decrease in the number of calls, the Tribunal was surprised with the limited number of complaints during 2020/21 which was contrary to expectations. But the Tribunal was proactive in approaching the communities where tenants and landlords were in distress. Both the MEC and the Tribunal Chairperson and staff had been on the radio during that period imploring both landlords and tenants to come to an amicable solution.

In terms of backlog, a number of interventions has led to a reduction in the backlog and it is a factor of backlog reduction strategy which the Tribunal put in place. The work is done closely with the Tribunal members and they have delegated to the staff in closing particular matters and cases. From a  backlog of 898 cases, by 31 January 2022, the cases were down to 421. The Tribunal members and the staff are acutely aware of the backlog. Hence every effort is being made to get it to a manageable level. There are some reasons that cause a backlog which are beyond the control of the Tribunal but it this to be a manageable proportion.

He admitted that a schedule of hearings which Tribunal members attended in 2020/21 and the associated payments were not provided but it will be provided to the Committee when approval is granted.

On the Rental Housing Amendment Act, the National Department had a countrywide road show on public hearings. Input on the amendments was provided by the Western Cape Rental Housing Tribunal. However the delays in implementation of the Act were out of the Tribunal’s control.
When the Tribunal last checked with the National Department, the Amendment Act will be enforced in the first quarter of 2022/23.

On Communicare tenant eviction cases, it is well documented that the majority of the 775 cases were due to an exorbitant increase in rental. If the Tribunal had dealt with each case on its own, it would have taken three years to finalize the matters.

Tribunal Chairperson, Mr Esterhuizen,  added that the Rental Housing Amendment Act  delay is because of the regulations. The National Department of Human Settlement is still drafting and finalising those regulations. There were community participation workshops on the draft regulations which then had to be drastically changed as they were onerous and would hamper the process for tenants and for the Tribunal. Hopefully, the final draft of the regulations will be much more user friendly.

The Communicare tenants raised the question of ownership. This was one of the reasons there was such a delay in some of the matters tenants brought to the Tribunal. On the question of whether Communicare is the rightful owner falls outside the Tribunal mandate. Another question raised was whether the Social Housing Programme should be applicable. Many of the arguments raised at the Tribunal centred around these issues which were not relevant and the tenants were advised of that. However, it seems that the Tribunal is a very convenient vehicle to raise such issues. They are now at the right forum at the Land Claims Court. The complainants have been assisted on the social housing question too as they were referred to the Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA) which assisted them. The complaints were about the exorbitant rental increase but they also brought ownership and other related matters to the Tribunal, which is not the correct forum.

The Chairperson noted the unanswered question on the high communication services costs in 2020/21 when the call centre was not that busy with only 1392 calls while 2018/19 and 2019/20  had many more calls but was not so inflated.

The Tribunal Manager referred to the expenditure table on page 9 which showed communication services increase from R19 000 to R26 839. During the lockdown period, advice was being provided to the citizens. The Tribunal posted the phone numbers of staff on the website which increased communication services costs. The reduction in the number of calls received relate to how the Tribunal was proactive in communicating with citizens. He noted that in 2021/22 there was an increase in communication and it was almost back to the levels of 2018/19.

Mr America suggested for oversight purposes to contextualize more fully it would help if the Tribunal tabulated the kind of disputes and open outstanding matters over the years to observe trends.

The Tribunal Manager replied that he takes the point and the classification will be expanded in the next reporting cycle. He referred to page 3 of the Annual Report which gives a breakdown of the types of cases that are dealt with. These are failure to refund deposit (29% of cases); unlawful notice to vacate (27%); failure to pay rental (15%) failure to provide municipal services (9%); failure to do maintenance (7%); unlawful evictions (6%) so a summary is provided.  

The Tribunal Chairperson added that the backlog number was noted but not the open cases. On page 12 of the Annual Report, Table 5 notes the number of complaints in 2020/21 was 1 944 and the number of unresolved cases at year end was 1325, with 898 of those being older than 90 days. He agreed that providing the sequence over several years to see trends is a good proposal.

Break

Analysis of Department Annual Report
Mr America remarked that the Committee received an adequate explanation from the Department on the delay in presenting the annual report. He had heard about the whole vexed question on localization and the explanation how it will impact on small and medium-term enterprises, particularly the enterprises headed by women and the youth. He thanked everyone for a frank and open engagement and hopes that sort of platform will be raised in the coming year.

It was noted that there were no requests from the public to make oral submissions.

Mr van der Westhuizen said he learned of the challenges experienced by the Department – many of which are outside its responsibility but unfortunately still have to be acknowledged. He gave the examples of investigating criminal actions, protecting property from illegal occupation, acting against extortionists, which are primarily the responsibility of the South African Police Service. It needed to be acknowledged and appreciated that our contractors must work under very difficult circumstances. The failure of the police pushes up the costs since the contractors now need to put up fences for security and need to guard the building materials closely. This general lawlessness pushes up costs.  He wished the Department well for the 2021/22 targets it is planning to achieve under difficult circumstances.

Mr Marran agreed. He raised the case of an old lady who had received the keys to her new house in Witzenberg. However, before she could move in, another woman has taken over the house and the municipality has refused to act. He wanted the Department to investigate the case since the municipality refuses to act. He started to name the woman.

The Chairperson interjected and warned him about the POPI Act. She requested that he rather email the information to her for the Department to investigate. It is concerning and she appreciated the passion Mr Marran about the communities he represents.

In his closing remarks, the MEC said that despite the challenges, through innovative ways, the Department has managed to deliver. As Committee members realize, human settlements and all its partnerships have impacted the capacity to deliver. Through innovation, delivery can be accelerated.

The Chairperson said there is a need to acknowledge the budget cuts that are going to be rough. That is why the Department has to be innovative to ensure services to the communities. Human settlements are the centre of communities and a huge number are unemployed and poor. Only innovation can help because it is going to be difficult for the Department to cut the backlog in human settlements.

She wants to find out from the municipalities the programmes that will be put in place and conduct some vetting because there is a perception that human settlements is only about Breaking New Ground (BNG) and excludes social housing and other formats the Department has to ensure that the 600 000 backlog of the Western Cape is addressed. The technology will help with the backlog of title deeds. The Department has to seriously address title deeds to ensure that the communities are given a sense of ownership. Housing invasions are taking budget money away from what it is supposed to be used for. There is a need to have a conversation about such challenges and be creative and innovative in dealing with them.

She excused the Department.

Resolutions
Mr America agreed with the Chairperson on the resolutions but asked to add a breakdown of the compensation that was provided to Tribunal members and the number of hearings each attended.

Mr van der Westhuizen asked the Chairperson to read the resolution on the backlog of title deeds. He requested that the Department provide for the last three financial years, the number of units completed versus the number of title deed transfers to get an indication if the battle is being lost.

Secondly, he is highly interested in the alternative construction methods and would like to hear the advantages and the disadvantages of these from the Department’s perspective such as the cost comparisons. Also in the future during a site visit, if the Committee could speak to the beneficiaries themselves on how the construction is perceived by the beneficiaries. Is it perceived as a better alternative to traditional bricks and mortar or do they have specific problems with it?

He asked that the Department inform the Committee about the projects where illegal occupation has caused problems and where it has had successes – why in some developments there are problems whereas others run orderly.

Mr D Smith (ANC) asked for clarity on the way forward as he too had a specific matter that he wanted to submit to the Department for investigation.

The Chairperson said for specific matters raised through the Committee, it is advisable to pass it through the Chairperson who will send it to ensure a time-bound response from the Department. The response will be provided which can then be taken to the community.

In terms of the POPI Act, the beneficiary has to give permission to utilise personal details so the matter can be given to the Department to be investigated.

The Chairperson ruled that Mr Smith was allowed to raise his concern since it was about a Department function and was not dealing with a specific person.

Mr Smith complained that there are fraudulent activities with the housing waiting lists. How does the Committee ensure a resolution that gives effect to authentic lists that need to be fixed?

The Chairperson noted that the online registration of beneficiaries for houses is going to be checked and the Department will start to work with the municipalities to check the database is up to date. Online registration will not have a loophole for corruption. Online registration will stop the corruption allegations happening in the municipalities about housing beneficiaries.

Mr Smith agreed with the Chairperson and said that 90% of the challenges will be solved. However, specific zooming-in must be done on the current projects and the municipal waiting lists. His primary concern was municipalities that have housing projects.

The Chairperson said she thinks they should include in the committee programme engaging with the Department on all the allegations in the different municipalities. Some municipalities have people receiving the houses that have never been on a beneficiary list. However, it will be best to engage the Department because subsidies are now attached to title deeds and managing the backlog is difficult and tedious because it becomes difficult to confirm the beneficiary against title deeds. There has to be a way to confirm that the right beneficiary is being allocated a house.

Mr Marran repeated the example of the old lady whose house is being illegally occupied by someone else. The current system is not encouraging people to believe their case will be resolved. The City Council is discouraging because of the tedious processes it expects people to go through to get their grievances resolved. People end up giving up because they feel they will not be helped adequately when they file a complaint. He gave another example of a corrupt practice where a couple put their name on the housing list and then got divorced. They later applied for separate housing and they earn a salary of more than R10 000. That matter has never been resolved.

Mr Marran put forward a resolution for a detailed breakdown of houses delivered over the last three years, compared with the number of title deeds issued over the last three years. This would help to keep proper track.

He agreed to visit some sites to confirm allegations posted by the public on Facebook about the quality of the housing.

The Chairperson confirmed that Mr Marran's resolution has already been covered. A record of the title deed cost would be added to reconciling the title deeds issued with houses delivered.

Mr America said he found the stories shared by Mr Marran disturbing and gave advice on how best the affected people could get help. He noted the need for visits in the municipalities.

The Chairperson agreed that such visits will be attended to immediately so that such practices  come to a close. She said that there were discrepancies between the province and municipalities in taking responsibility for setting up systems to track records and reconcile housing distribution and the issuing of title deeds. Bringing in the right technology to have a tracking database and ensuring the municipalities use it will be very helpful.

Mr Marran echoed that a database management system will be very helpful. He added that auditing investigation must be carried out in the municipalities.

The Chairperson said the resolutions and amendments would be incorporated and circulated among Members.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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