The Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements met virtually to discuss progress made by the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements in implementing recommendations arising from an oversight visit by the Committee.
Members raised concerns about the provision of title deeds to the rightful owners of RDP houses and the illegal occupation of houses and land invasions. They emphasised that there should be consequence management for officials who were implicated in the provision of houses to foreigners and that owners of houses who sold them to foreigners should face the full might of the law.
Members asked about houses which were affected by sinkholes. They said more attention should be given to the provision of social amenities in big housing projects.
The Department emphasised that land invasion was a criminal activity and was well organised.
The Committee was briefed by the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements (DOHS) on matters raised by the Committee after an oversight visit to Gauteng on 24-28 January. A DOHS official, Ms Phumzile Maseko Seipobi, made two presentations on the Department’s responses to recommendations by the Committee. Matters covered were: corrective measures in the issuance of title deeds in townships; planning for the Lanseria Mega City; the illegal sale of RDP houses; the transparency of housing beneficiary lists; consequence management for non-performing contractors; an early warning system for land invasions; the approach in dealing with blacklisted applicants for social housing; and the integration of the Mamelodi Hostel into the broader community.
(See slide presentations for details.)
The Chairperson invited Members to respond to the reports.
Ms N Sihlwayi (ANC) said she had not been part of the oversight visit, but she appreciated the progress on the issuance of title deeds and the actions to deal with problems with township establishment. A general concern was communities not claiming title deeds in municipalities as people did not always know what belonged to them. Provinces should hold meetings with these people to encourage them to collect their title deeds. Referring to slide 8, she called for action against the person known as “Bhumba” who posed as an official of the Department in selling houses to community members. This was a criminal act and should be addressed as such. She said legislation on deeds registration should be amended to allow family titling of houses, because many things, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, had caused people to lose their houses. There was also fighting among family members, so the Act should be amended. The principles of the Housing Consumer Protection Bill in relation to contractors doing incomplete jobs should be addressed. Issues of digitalisation must also be addressed. A system should be put in place to give beneficiaries houses or sites.
Mr M Tseki (ANC) welcomed the report. The presentation showed more reliance on the private sector. He was not certain that the Department would effectively respond to this. The President had said Lanseria would be a new smart city. It should be acknowledged that more than 800 houses were being illegally occupied, which meant that more than 800 families had lost out on what government had promised them. In Lethabong, the houses which had been built were not allocated to beneficiaries. The supplementary report contradicted the main report which said that not all houses were linked to their beneficiaries. There was a difference between beneficiary lists and title deeds. The Department should pay attention to the provision of social amenities in big projects. For example, the Elijah Barayi Village was a beautiful project, but there were a lot of gaps in amenities such as recreational centres, schools, halls and early childhood development (ECD) centres. The issue of family title to homes must be dealt with. Sometimes a family member would apply for letters of authority and steal someone’s house while they were still staying in it. He asked the Chairperson to raise an issue about someone at the public hearings who had lost their home to a law enforcer.
The Chairperson said the reports should be reintegrated and submitted properly to the Committee. The sinkholes in Khutsong which had affected people’s houses did not feature in the reports. Many foreign nationals occupied houses while South Africans were suffering. The people who were giving the houses to foreigners should face consequence management. She said the deadlines given for resolving matters had to be reconsidered.
Ms Maseko Seipobi noted Members' comments.
Mr Daniel Malokomme, Deputy Director-General: Planning and Property Management in Gauteng, responded to the issue of unclaimed title deeds. He said some people had moved out of Gauteng and gone back to their places of origin. The Department worked with municipal officials and ward councillors. It placed advertisements in newspapers for people to collect title deeds. The Housing Development Agency (HDA) had been appointed to help the Department and a project management office had been established for people to claim their title deeds. The Lanseria project was registered with the South African Infrastructure Unit in the Presidency. He said there was limited grant funding for social amenities. Sinkholes were being attended to, but some people staying in big houses were reluctant to accept the standard RDP ones. Khutsong had been prioritised and people would be relocated. An update would be given on this.
Mr Tseki said the Department must include in its report the circumstances of the houses being invaded. The Department must indicate whether they were aware of the invasions 48 hours after they occurred. The Department could respond to this at a later stage.
Ms Sihlwayi asked what the reasons were for people opposing relocations. She said some people had built big houses on land that did not belong to them. Land sites should be planned to include social amenities. These should not only be recreational facilities, but should include other government departments.
Ms C Seoposengwe (ANC) asked about the invasion of houses. There were about 400 houses which were not registered for title deeds. These houses should be secured so their rightful beneficiaries could access them.
Ms Seipobi said that Ms Sihlwayi was correct about social amenities. Land use for amenities was included in layout plans, but this also referred to community halls, sports fields, taxi ranks and ECD centres. The DOHS negotiated through the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure Development for the purchase of land for construction.
Land invasion was a criminal activity and was well organised. A report would be given to the Committee. Usually, big groups of people invaded land. The Department worked with the SA Police Service (SAPS), local communities and their leadership. The Department did get immediate reports of invasions which enabled it to approach the courts for eviction within 48 hours. However, eviction was sometimes delayed because the courts would consider a case made by the illegal occupants.
Mr Malokomme said human rights or social justice lawyers advanced the rights of invaders. This essentially meant that these people had jumped the queue and invaded properties with the aim of getting the courts on their side to obtain alternative land. This would create a precedent for every invader.
Layout plans for township approval were submitted to municipalities, which had spatial development frameworks. If provision was not made for institutions such as schools and churches, such an application would not necessarily be approved. The Human Settlements Master Plan that guided how mixed income development should be handled had been approved.
Foreigners occupying homes had not necessarily been allocated the homes by officials, but if this was the case, consequence management would take place. When informal settlements were upgraded, it was sometimes found that those residing there had owned houses before, which meant that it was not only officials who were giving houses to foreigners.
The Chairperson said consumer education should be strengthened, so that if people wanted to sell their houses, they would approach government. Homeowners should not be able to do this within a period of eight years and the first option should be given to government to purchase the house for redistribution. People who had houses, but were staying in informal settlements must be named and shamed.
Ms Seoposengwe said she was not sure whether her question had been responded to. She asked what the Department was doing to mitigate invasions of land and what it had learned. She asked what the Department was doing to deal with the issues raised by the Chairperson.
Mr Malokomme said the invasion of private property was criminal and the Department approached law enforcement agencies when it happened. In response to common tendencies and hot spot areas, the Department had established an anti-fraud unit which worked very closely with the Hawks priority crimes unit and the police in general to enforce the law. Lessons learned were that people came to Gauteng in numbers for work and economic opportunities. The demand for housing became high and this encouraged illegal activity.
The meeting was adjourned.
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