DHS & provincial departments on plans to remove asbestos roofs, eradication of mud houses and unblocking of blocked projects; progress in auditing and upgrading of informal settlements; spending of conditional grants

Human Settlements

07 September 2022
Chairperson: Ms R Semenya (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

In a virtual meeting, the Committee was briefed by the National Department of Human Settlements and some provincial departments on plans to remove asbestos roofs, eradicate mud houses, and unblock blocked projects.

The Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN) Provincial Department of Human Settlements reported that regarding the Asbestos-Roof Houses Project, assessments had been completed and procurement was underway in the uMgungundlovu District Municipality. On interventions for the eradication of mud houses, the province was implementing the OSS programme that targeted the most vulnerable including those in mud houses that could not wait for projects due to the state of the houses.

Members were pleased that the target for the Rural Housing Programme for 2022/2023 was 7803 and 8173 for 2023/ 2024. About blocked projects in the uThukela District Municipality funds would be made available by the Water Services Authority for the municipality to upgrade water and sewer mains. The lack of funding for bulk infrastructure upgrades was a challenge as, in some areas, there was no sewer infrastructure and plans for installation. Regarding the upgrading of Informal Settlements, 937 Informal Settlements have been identified. 78% of the Informal Settlements were in eThekwini. R756 868 000 has been allocated for the 2022/23 financial year for land acquisition, bulk infrastructure and planned projects. Members heard that about 145 transfers of title deeds could not be considered/counted as they were identified during the beneficiary verification as already transferred in past years; hence only 94 transfers were reported.

The Limpopo Provincial Department informed Members that it has partnered with the Housing Development Agency (HDA) to implement the eradication of asbestos roofs. The HDA has been appointed to eradicate 1 500 asbestos roofs in the township of Seshego within the Polokwane Municipality. Regarding the eradication of mud houses, Members were informed that the province continued to prioritise rural housing to improve the quality of life of the vulnerable residents. The target for 2022/23 for rural housing was 3 610. Since the province has not quantified the number of inhabitable mud houses, it has been a challenge to assess the impact of the Rural Housing Programme. To close this gap, the Department planned to utilise Community Development Workers (CDWs) to conduct an audit/assessment/enumeration of all the mud structures requiring replacement. Concerning blocked housing projects, the province had 478 blocked housing projects in the housing subsidy systems. The National Home Builders Regiistration Council (NHBRC) has been engaged to do a structural integrity assessment on blocked projects older than five years, and this exercise would be concluded by December 2022. To plan properly for the eradication of Informal Settlements, the Department has undertaken an audit of Informal Settlements in the province during 2013/14. The audit revealed that the province had 81 Informal Settlements affecting approximately 47 783 households requiring different interventions from township establishment, tenure upgrade, relocation, etcetera. The process of reviewing the informal settlement development strategy is currently underway. The Committee was informed that the HSDG Budget allocation for 2022/23 was R906 953 000 while the ISUPG allocation was R269 465 000. The allocated budget is earmarked to deliver 4 485 units and 6 055 sites. There were 801 title deeds transferred as at the end of August 2022 against an annual target of 2 000 translating into a 40% transfer rate.

The Mpumalanga Provincial Department of Human Settlements informed the Committee that it was collaborating with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to eradicate mud houses in farm areas. The houses were identified in 18 different villages spread across the Mkhondo Local Municipality: Iswepe, Emlazi, Driepan and Amsterdam. On the unblocking of blocked projects, a total of four projects were identified and reported under the category of stalled/blocked projects in the province. Members heard that regarding progress in auditing and the upgrading of informal settlement plans, Mpumalanga has successfully finalised sixty-four upgrading plans across the province through the assistance of the National Department of Human Settlements in the previous financial years. It was currently finalising 54 upgrading plans in the 2022/23 financial year, of which the National Department was funding 29. Mpumalanga has made a lot of progress in implementing the Informal Settlements Upgrading Programme since its inception. Over 40 informal settlements have been upgraded into different phases. Members heard that the challenges on title deeds and the provision of sites or land to beneficiaries were around unproclaimed townships; houses built on state land under the administration of Traditional Leadership; difficulties in performing physical site verification where there was illegal occupation of houses as the occupants refused entry to the field workers; the illegal sale and occupation of rental of houses by beneficiaries and disputes amongst family members (pre-1994). ). To mitigate the challenges, the Mpumalanga Department would be conducting consumer education campaigns to encourage family members to obtain letters of Authority. It would further conduct consumer education to beneficiaries on the challenges caused by persons not being available to sign transfer documents to allow the registration process to proceed. Municipalities were encouraged to take action against affected officials who misallocated and sold houses. There was positive progress in this regard as corrupt Officials were arrested in the Emalahleni Local Municipality.

The EFF was particularly concerned about RDP houses and asked what plans were in place for the RDP houses that were flooded in Limpopo; was the Department going to continue to build RDP houses without toilets; when are the beneficiaries going to be allocated houses and when were the houses going to be built. Members were very concerned about shoddy work being done by contractors and the collusion between contractors and Officials. The Committee was informed that these contractors had developed a tendency to change their company names to hide their deception. Members were informed about the term “amadela-ngokubona” which was used to refer to the construction mafias whose actions had resulted in one of the officials of the Department being brutally killed.

When the Committee asked if the National Department was meeting the financial contributions for the projects of smart cities the President had talked about during SoNA it was told that the provinces managed the matter of smart cities and there has been no funding allocated by the National Department towards this project. Members asked further how the budget was approved for blocked projects, if bulk infrastructure was the cause of the delays; the impact of reprioritisation because R166 million has been prioritised; Why only R500 000 was allocated for the upgrade of Informal Settlements and What is being done to ensure that poor performing contractors were blacklisted and do not get work from the state again’?

Meeting report

Briefing by the KZN Provincial Department of Human Settlements

In his introductory remarks, Dr Ntuthuko Mahlaba, KZN MEC for Human Settlements and Public Works, stated that mud houses were everywhere even in townships. Eradicating them would be a mammoth task. There is a need for a plan to do that. The project of removing asbestos roofs would be done in eThukela and another one would be on the Title deeds.

Mr Mduduzi Zungu, HOD, KZN Department of Human Settlements, reported that there had been reductions in the HSDG budget over the last five years. The lower allocation from the 2021/22 financial year was due to the introduction of the ISUP grant. The ISU programme was previously budgeted for under the HSDG. Regarding the asbestos-roof houses project, assessments have been completed and procurement is underway in the uMgungundlovu District Municipality. Assessments were still underway in the district municipalities of Amajuba and uThukela.

On interventions for the eradication of mud houses, he reported that the province is implementing the OSS programme that targets the most vulnerable, including those in mud houses that could not wait for projects due to the state of the houses. The Rural Housing Programme targets areas that would be most affected by mud houses and ensure the provision of decent shelter in these areas. The target for the Rural Housing Programme for 2022/2023 is 7 803, while 8 173 is for 2023/ 2024. Some of the challenges around the eradication of mud houses are that the terrain in rural areas is proving to be problematic because some homesteads are difficult to access through the poor road network; the demand for housing far exceeds the current financial capacity of the Department; and access to building materials in some areas is a test due to major centres being far away.

About blocked projects, he stated that in the uThukela District Municipality, funds would be made available by the Water Services Authority for the municipality to upgrade water and sewer mains. The lack of funding for bulk infrastructure upgrades is a challenge. In some areas, there are no sewer infrastructure and plans for installation. In King Cetshwayo and eThekwini municipalities, some areas lack bulk infrastructure. In some areas of the Harry Gwala District Municipality, projects have been stalled due to incomplete planning and financial misalignment. Private land owners are not willing to donate land for housing development. Land remains private. The Department is exploring ways of acquiring more land and financial alignment is required and records of work and activities undertaken to complete the project.

In other district municipalities like uMgungundlovu, the challenge is around the unavailability of bulk water and privately owned land because land owners do not want to release the land for development. The Department has asked the district municipalities to provide bulk water to allocate additional funding for the projects. Further, the Department is trying to identify alternative land to accommodate potential beneficiaries and negotiations with private land owners are required. In some other areas of the Ugu District Municipality, the challenges are around attaining development rights agreements from the Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB), lack of funding for bulk infrastructure, construction being put on hold due to provision of bulk infrastructure which requires upgrading because district municipalities are still waiting for the approval of funding and availability of funds for bulk infrastructure.

Pertaining to the upgrading of informal settlements, 937 informal settlements have been identified. 78% of Informal Settlements are in eThekwini. R756 868 000 has been allocated for the 2022/23 financial year for land acquisition, bulk infrastructure and planned projects. It is important to note that R166 000 000 has been highlighted for disaster assistance which would result in the review of the 2022/23 targets.

About the transfer of title deeds, he reported that about 145 transfers that could not be considered/counted were identified during the beneficiary verification as already transferred in past years, hence 94 transfers are reported. Actuals for Q2 would only be reported at the end of the quarter after verification by M&E. The Directorate undertook an analysis exercise in the 2022/23 business plan, for findings on each targeted project. Actuals for Q2 would only be reported at the end of the quarter after verification by M&E.

In the business plan, there are no projects targeted under New. However, transfers are being undertaken and adjustments for accommodating omitted projects would be addressed during the adjustment of the business plan later on in the financial year.

Challenges around the unchanged professional tariffs have led some service providers to be reluctant to undertake the required tasks. For example, service providers are prioritising activities other than the Departmental activities; municipalities are unable to issue some available title deeds because beneficiaries are untraceable; generally, projects that have progressed to beneficiary verification and conveyancing stages have about 30% of the properties being affected by various beneficiary issues hence targeted transfers are not met. The deregistration process is likely to be costly because there would be cases where high court applications may be a requirement prior to the cancellation of the existing title deed. Other costs involved included advertisement and compliance with regulation 68 thereon.

To remedy the situation, he stated that the Department proposed that professional tariffs for title deeds-related activities need to be reviewed; project level targets for transfers should be set around 60% and the balance of 40% would be for accommodating various beneficiary issues and properties that have already been transferred; the deregistration of missing beneficiaries and regularisation processes is required; there should be further discussions regarding deregistration and a standard approach is required and this would fluctuate title deeds backlogs; and rectification of title deeds is required and a donation agreement between the parties should be concluded for evading high court applications.

(Graphs and tables were shown to illustrate available title deeds ready for handover; title deeds restoration projects; informal settlements upgrading plans; ISUPG planned projects; OSS interventions on the eradication of mud houses; and asbestos roof housing projects)

Briefing by the Limpopo Provincial Department of Human Settlements

In his brief introduction, Mr Basikopo Makamu, Limpopo MEC for  Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (COGHSTA), commented that the removal of mud houses was the decision of MinMec. Some households do not use the mud house as the main home, but it is a space to save some traditional things.

Dr Modjadji Malahlela, Acting HOD, Limpopo COGHSTA, said that the Department has partnered with the Housing Development Agency (HDA) to implement the eradication of asbestos roofs. Two main projects currently under implementation are: (i) the eradication of asbestos roofs in the Seshego Township and (ii) the audit/assessment of all asbestos roof structures in the province. To this end, the HDA has been appointed to eradicate 1 500 asbestos roofs in the township of Seshego within the Polokwane Municipality.

The second priority is to develop a comprehensive Provincial Asbestos Replacement Programme by February 2023. To this effect, the Department is finalising the appointment of the HDA to conduct and audit all asbestos structures in the province as per the project plan. The main challenge of eradicating the asbestos roofs is the lack of information on the extent of the backlog in the province. The Department would audit all asbestos roofs/structures requiring attention and development of a comprehensive provincial plan.

On eradicating mud houses, she reported that the province continues to prioritise rural housing to improve the quality of life of vulnerable residents. The target for 2022/23 for rural housing is 3 610. Since the province has not quantified the number of unhabitable mud houses, it has been a challenge to assess the impact of the Rural Housing Programme. To close this gap, the Department would utilise Community Development Workers (CDWs) to conduct an audit/assessment/enumeration of all the mud structures requiring replacement. The audit would be completed by the end of November 2022, and the audit report would be concluded by December 2022. The finalisation of the development areas and, subsequently, the 2023/24 business plan would have clear targets in this area. The challenge in eradicating mud houses is the lack of information on the provincial backlog. The Department would audit all unhabitable structures to ensure that the approval of development areas submitted by municipalities targets the affected household areas.

Concerning blocked housing projects, the province had 478 blocked projects on the Housing Subsidy Systems due to several reasons, such as non-performance by contractors, lapsed contracts, terminations, and balances still reflected on projects. Following the intervention of the ministerial war room on blocked projects, the HSS was cleansed, reducing the number of projects from 478 to 161 due to some projects confirmed to be closed. The NHBRC has been engaged to do a structural integrity assessment on blocked projects older than five years, and this exercise would be concluded by December 2022. There Is an Incomplete structural audit to inform that the intervention has proved to be a challenge for blocked housing projects. The NHBRC would conclude the integrity structural audit by December 2022.
Projects are going to be prioritised in the 2023/24 Business Plan.

To plan properly to eradicate informal settlements, the Department has undertaken an audit of Informal Settlements in the province during 2013/14. The audit revealed that the province had 81 informal settlements, affecting approximately 47 783 households requiring different interventions from township establishment, tenure upgrade, relocation, etcetera. The process of reviewing the Informal Settlement Development Strategy is currently underway.

Dr Malahlela stated that the overall objectives of the Rapid Land Release Programme were to provide for the release of land and land tenure to ensure that individuals and communities are able to take advantage of the available housing opportunities and provide communities with the ability to gain access to the necessary land to leverage township businesses, urban agriculture and sporting and recreational opportunities. Delays in signing the clearance certificate by the municipalities and rental of houses by beneficiaries posed challenges for the Title Deeds Project. The Department would continue to regularly engage with affected municipalities and embark on consumer education.

She further informed the Committee that the HSDG budget allocation for 2022/23 is R906 953 000 while ISUPG allocation is R269 465 000. The allocated budget is earmarked to deliver 4 485 units and 6 055 sites. The cumulative expenditure for HSDG as at the end of August 2022 is R 232 882 095, translating into 26% of the original budget. The cumulative expenditure for ISUPG as at the end of August 2022 is R61 284 391, translating into 23% of the original budget. The housing units delivered as at the end of August 2022 were 2002 against a target of 4 485 units translating into 45%. There were no sites delivered as at the end of August 2022 against an annual target of 6 055 sites. There were 801 title deeds transferred as at the end of August 2022 against an annual target of 2 000, translating into 40%.

Lastly, challenges around expenditure on conditional grants were around the delayed commencement of the project due to incomplete planning processes, the lack of infrastructure database/records from the municipalities were delaying engineering service designs, inadequate capacity of planning units in both the Department and municipalities, and underperforming contractors. To mitigate all these challenges, Department has developed recovery plans and implemented them. So far, 98% of all projects are enrolled with the NHBRC and 90% of the beneficiaries were approved and the contractors have taken sites. The Additional appointment of service providers was made to determine the required information, for example, the capacity of the water source and the level of consumption. The Department has outsourced PRT to augment project planning and project management. The Department approved the cession facility to support low-capacity contractors, and invoked relevant clauses in the contract by issuing Mora letters.

(Graphs and tables were shown to illustrate projections vs expenditure from the 2022/23 financial year as of 31 August 2022, Rapid Land Release (public and private land acquired), the project status on informal settlements, project prioritisation, Provincial ISU Strategy, list of blocked projects, and asbestos eradication)

Briefing by the Mpumalanga Provincial Department of Human Settlements

Mr Speedy Mashilo, Mpumalanga MEC for Human Settlements, briefly informed the Committee the Department had to adjust the budget of the programmes in rural areas and requested all the municipalities to provide details and figures on all the projects underway.

Ms Hazel Zitha, Acting HOD Department of Human Settlements, stated that it collaborated with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to eradicate mud houses in farm areas. The Department identified highly dense areas with mud houses under the Rural Housing Programme and prioritised them for eradication within the current financial year. The houses were identified in 18 different villages spread across the Mkhondo Local Municipality: Iswepe, Emlazi, Driepan and Amsterdam. The province has not quantified nor has it an existing database of mud houses. In the previous financial year of 2021/22, 136 mud houses were eradicated in the Mkhondo Local Municipality. The addition of 91 mud houses has been identified for the 2022/23 financial year under the Rural Housing Programme. The contractor working on this project was progressing well and has an additional 56 houses at roof level.

On the unblocking of blocked projects, a total of four projects were identified and reported under the category of stalled/blocked projects in the province. It was noted that there are no approved beneficiaries linked to the blocked projects. The reasons for the blockage were illegal invasions, the business forum demanding higher rates than what was provided for in the contract which led to the contractor surrendering the project to the Department, and no municipal bulk infrastructure services to support the service sites and construction of low-cost housing units. The Department has engaged the municipality to prioritise funding for bulk infrastructure to unblock the project. The Department is in the process of appointing a new service provider to complete the project. The eviction process is in the hands of the courts.

Regarding progress in auditing and the upgrading of Informal Settlement plans, Ms Zitha reported that the Department has successfully finalised sixty-four upgrading plans across the province through the assistance of the National Department of Human Settlements in the previous financial years. The Department was currently finalising 54 upgrading plans in the 2022/23 financial year, of which the National Department of Human Settlements is funding 29 and 25 are funded through the provincial Department. The Department has made a lot of progress in implementing the Informal Settlements Upgrading Programme since its inception. Over 40 informal settlements have been upgraded into different phases. Some are still in the planning and implementation phase (servicing of sites), and others are ready for the last phase of housing consolidation.

Challenges on title deeds and the provision of sites or land to beneficiaries are around unproclaimed townships, houses built on state land under the administration of traditional leadership, difficulties in performing physical site verification where there is illegal occupation of houses as the occupants refused entry to the field workers, the illegal sale and occupation of rental of houses by beneficiaries, and disputes amongst family members (pre-1994). To mitigate the challenges, the Department would be conducting consumer education campaigns to encourage family members to obtain letters of Authority. It would further conduct consumer education to beneficiaries on the challenges caused by sales; rentals; not being available to sign transfer documents; advertise on various media platforms and municipal notice boards the list of all affected beneficiaries calling them to come and sign the transfer documents to allow the registration process to proceed. Municipalities are encouraged to take action on affected officials who misallocate and sell houses. There is positive progress in this regard, as corrupt officials were arrested in the Emalahleni Local Municipality. Municipalities, social structures and law enforcement agencies are being engaged to allow field workers to conduct the verifications. The Department prioritises township proclamation supported by municipal tribunals in fast-tracking township applications. Town planners to conduct township finalisation have already been appointed.

Finally, on the spending of conditional grants, Ms Zitha informed the Members that during the 2021/22 financial year, under-performance was reported in the Provincial Emergency Housing Grant (PEHG) due to the delays in obtaining a comprehensive listing of affected damaged houses from the municipalities and delays in concluding a technical assessment of damaged houses. Notwithstanding, the Department was able to fully commit the PEHG with most of the affected houses completed within the current financial year. The Department applied for a roll-over amount of R 20 million for the PEHG which has since been approved.

(Graphs and tables were shown to illustrate conditional grants expenditure, progress in auditing and upgrading informal settlements, unblocking blocked projects, and eradication of mud houses)

Discussion
Deliberations with the Department

Ms S Mokgotho (EFF) to Limpopo: What plans were in place for the RDP houses flooded in Limpopo? Is the Department going to continue to build RDP houses without toilets and when will the beneficiaries be allocated houses and when will the houses be built? When are the unfinished projects in Lebowakgomo going to be completed? Are there any disciplinary measures that would be taken against officials who colluded with contractors who produced shoddy work? When did the Department realise the matter of poor-quality work by contractors? Is the Department still using the services of these contractors who continue to produce poor work’?

To KZN: What is the Department doing with the construction mafia? What are the figures for mud houses and asbestos roofs that need to be replaced in KZN, Mpumalanga and Limpopo?

To the National Department: When is the war room going to start to be operational?

MEC Makamu said the Department would do an oversight visit to see the unfinished housing project in Lebowakgomo done ten years ago. Because of lessons learnt in the past, contractors were now paid through milestones that the NHBC approves. He stressed that there are houses that the NHBC has rectified, but this is happening on a small scale and is something that has started now. There are poorly built houses that have been destroyed in Phalaborwa, but they have been rebuilt. People have also been asked to be active when they see contractors doing bad work on these projects. On poor performing contractors, he stated, when they are identified, they have developed a tendency to change their company names. Then you discover that the same company did poor quality work. They always resurface later with different names. Sometimes Supply Chain Management (SCM) officials do pick up these tendencies. He said houses had been built for unoccupied houses, but sometimes people refuse to leave their old areas or would occupy the houses and start to go back to where they came from and rent the houses out. Law enforcement agencies have also failed to act against illegal occupations.

Dr Malahlela said an investigation and a proper report would be done on the houses that do not have sanitation in Moletjie. Where there is no sanitation, the Department always provides it because its houses come with sanitation. She said the target for the first quarter was 1 500, but they have managed to work on 400 houses and relocations were done on these projects. The status of old beneficiaries is always verified and included in the new allocations.

MEC Mahlaba informed the Committee that the term “amadela-ngokubona” is used to refer to the construction mafias. Their actions resulted in one of the officials of the Department being brutally killed. This matter needs a multi-pronged approach and to work with law enforcement agencies. People do not want to work, but only want the money from the projects. The Department is currently dealing with 1742 asbestos-roofed houses.

Ms N Tafeni (EFF) wanted to know if the National Department was meeting the financial contributions for the projects of Smart Cities the President had talked about during SoNA; if the National Department has got plans for addressing challenges in informal settlements; wanted to understand why contractors in Limpopo were abandoning projects and how the Department was planning to solve these challenges.

Mr Neville Chainee, DDG: Human Settlements, Planning and Strategy, National Department of Human Settlements, said the provinces manage the matter of smart cities and there has been no funding allocated by the National Department towards this project. Progress is still happening.

MEC Makamu stated that some companies that have abandoned projects have left for Gauteng, maybe looking at making better and higher profits. The strategy attracts them because they consider whether the project makes good business sense to them. In other cases, it is about spatial arrangements from the side of the Department.
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 Ms E Powell (DA) asked KZN what the Department planning before the start of these projects under discussion because 26 000 units have not been done due to a lack of planning; How does the budget get approved for blocked projects if bulk infrastructure was the cause of the delays; What is the impact of reprioritisation because R166 million has been prioritised; Why was only R500 000 has been allocated for the upgrade of informal settlements; How is the Department capacitating eThekwini Municipality on the use of the USDG bulk infrastructure and what oversight is being done on the USDG bulk infrastructure; What is the Department doing to ensure the USDG is allocated to Pietermaritzburg; What is the Department doing to improve the lives of people in informal settlements; What is being done to ensure poor performing contractors are blacklisted and do not get work from the state again?

 To Limpopo, she asked what the Department was doing to ensure that poor-performing contractors were blacklisted because, during the visit of the Committee to the province, housing beneficiaries indicated that the newly built houses were falling apart.

Ms X Ntanzi (sp), DDG, KZN Human Settlements Department, stated that planning on bulk infrastructure for blocked projects was done by municipalities in KZN. Sometimes municipalities changed their priorities and did not inform the Department. The Department was assisting municipalities through the DDM structure. She indicated further that the allocated R500 000 is concluding planning studies. On shoddy work by contractors, she said the Department ensures it inspects the work at the early stages in collaboration with the NHBC. Some projects are implemented by the eThekwini Municipality.

MEC Mahlaba said that district municipalities had been tasked with providing bulk infrastructure and the Department is engaging with them. He indicated that the USDG is managed nationally, not by the province. He also said that the Department is working closely with the communities on upgrading informal settlements because some areas do not want informal settlements around their areas because they believe that would devalue their houses. On poor quality work by contractors, he said there is a need for new thinking on this matter because there is a need to ensure small contractors continue to benefit from the system because they comprise women, youth, MK veterans and those with disabilities. It has been agreed that the Department should not continue to work with poor-performing contractors because they waste government money.

MEC Makamu stated that the problem around consequence management is that some project managers are sub-contractors; therefore, those meant to provide oversight have been found to be players as well. Now the Department has punished those officials that have been players or sub-contractors. He also pointed out there is a social media story that made the rounds about a man staying in a shack on a river bank. He said he sometimes asked himself why people do not register themselves to be included in the housing beneficiary list. He discovered the man was allocated a house but fought with his wife about the house. So, he had to intervene to get him a house of his own.

Mr C Malematja (ANC) remarked that the presentations were showing signs of hope. The mud houses and asbestos-roofed houses were built because Black people had no choice. Apartheid was the cause.

To KZN, he asked: how many units have been built in the first quarter; What steps are taken to ensure that bulk infrastructure grants are used by the municipalities; Are there any investigations that are being done against poor performing contractors; What is the Department doing about private land to unblock housing projects? How did the Department deal with traditional leadership?

 To Mpumalanga: What plans are in place to ensure that the R20 million is not rolled over; Have the municipalities received bulk infrastructure grants for blocked housing projects; he remarked that steering committees should be the guardians of these projects because if you do not have them in communities, the projects would fail.

To Limpopo: When is the Department going to finalise the implementation plans for the National Department; What is the figure for mud houses that needed to be destroyed; Is there consequence management for poor-performing contractors; How is the Department going to recoup the funds paid to these poor performing contractors and how is the Department going to ensure the projects are completed?

MEC Mahlaba indicated the Department has tried to engage traditional leaders and communities to tell them they should protect the projects because they belong to the communities. But if they do not protect them, the projects would fail and not benefit them at all. He stated that there was a need to be realistic when eradicating mud houses because people would continue to build them for different reasons.

Ms Ntanza added that for land in traditional rural areas, the Department engages the traditional leadership and gets developmental rights from the Ingonyama Trust Board. She further reported that 1715 units had been built at a cost of R299 million when it comes to progress on mud houses.

Mr Zungu also indicated details on the disaster would be sent to the Committee.

MEC Makamu also stated that the Department of Cooperative Governance in Limpopo had been assigned to provide figures on mud and asbestos-roofed houses in mining towns. The HDA has been appointed to provide assessment on the matter.

MEC Mashilo stated that he was taking note of the role of the steering committees in the success of projects to ensure that they are done well. Business forums also play an important role in these projects. He said further that municipalities had been asked to provide details on the number of asbestos-roofed houses. Eight municipalities have responded so far with a figure of 10 000, while the rest have not responded. On planned projects with no bulk infrastructure, he explained that sometimes municipalities do not respond around the matter of bulk infrastructure even though the project has been started. The Department has been trying to mitigate this. Regarding consequence management, he stated there had been officials who had been axed from work because they were found to have colluded with contractors.

Ms Zitha stated there is no database on mud houses that need to be destroyed. The Department would be working with the municipalities to identify these houses.

The Chairperson wanted to know if the use of 30% pronounced by the Minister for blocked projects in KZN and Mpumalanga would be done through the DDM. She asked the Department to give the Committee a strategy on how to unlock the process of title deeds, and the strategy should include inputs from Cogta and Land Affairs departments. She also wanted to understand if the land acquired for provinces would address spatial transformation. She indicated further that the Committee is collating data it gathered during its oversight visit in Limpopo. The report would be sent to the provincial department because many individuals raised concerns about housing matters. She remarked that the problem around illegal occupation of houses has to do with the beneficiary list. She said community members told her in Seshego, a new ward councillor asked not to be bothered about the previous list of housing beneficiaries. She indicated the Committee learnt a good practice from the Eastern Cape where the municipality councils have got to take resolutions on the housing beneficiary lists so that new ward councillors could take responsibility and not change the beneficiary lists.

The Chairperson said Mpumalanga has to be congratulated on its consumer awareness campaign so that beneficiaries do not sell their houses until they have stayed in them for eight years. She then wanted to know if the project of building new houses included social amenities; and wanted to find out how people are made aware if they could go to the NHBC to claim if they find defects in these newly built houses. She indicated that this information should be included in the welcome letters that people receive when they get houses.

Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, Ms Pam Tshwete, said she has noted the Chairperson's concerns and would be included in the ‘welcome’ letters people receive. She also noted that houses built after ’94 appear to be in a bad state now, and the Department is dealing with backlogs on mud houses.

Mr Chainee stated that any land secured for provinces is always prioritised for the Department of Human Settlements, including 40% of the USDG and ISPG.

MEC Mashilo said that the new houses being built also included social amenities. There has been no project without social amenities.

Ms Powell did not agree with the view that informal settlements in KZN were the result of apartheid. The Department has to play its role in ensuring these informal settlements are upgraded, seeing that no grants are meant for that.

Ms Mokgotho remarked that privately owned land should be expropriated without compensation if the owner refuses to avail the land for building houses. She insisted that government stated if it would expropriate land from private land owners for housing purposes, then negotiate and compensate for the unused land. But if the owner refuses to cooperate, that land would be expropriated without compensation. The 28% of land owned by black people is over-utilised already. She then wondered about what would happen in the future.

The Chairperson stated the expropriation law that was used in the past by the apartheid government would still be used to expropriate without compensation.

Mr Chainee stated that the Department would express its view on land expropriation in writing because it has to discuss the matter with the Minister first. The process of expropriation is an ongoing matter.

MEC Mahlaba pointed out they have started to engage with the eThekwini Municipality to find a speedy solution to the problems. Progress would be reported to the Committee.

Mr Zungu added that the Department does not have much control over the projects in the metro. The signing is per site. The metro has a budget for projects and the Department is taking over some of these projects to run them. This matter has not even been discussed with the Minister. The municipalities pretend these projects are not theirs even though they are responsible for their citizens.

The Chairperson remarked that problems in the metros had been created by the metros themselves, including the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality. The National Department has to look at this and do assessments for capacity in carrying the project for the Department.

The Deputy Minister said the total budget for upgrading informal settlements is R4.8 billion. The Department would be approaching the Committee for advice on disbursing the money to provinces so it could be better used. On the unused USDG, she said that the Department does not intend to take money from provinces because it is the people who are going to suffer. The provinces have demonstrated that they had plans. She also indicated that the Department had learnt one or two things from the summit it attended recently. It would now start working with the SAPS because some people do not want to go through the procurement process. She pointed out further that the housing beneficiary list prioritised the elderly and those with children and disabilities. The steering committee of each project should assist the Department in ensuring that politicians do not change the lists. About illegal occupations, she stated this was a challenge in all provinces. Land invasions go with illegal over occupations. Doing an eviction is a long process because it involves courts. The strategy of the Department is if 2 000 houses are built, there must be no waiting for them to be completed for people to occupy them. People on the waiting list should occupy those units already completed while the construction is happening.

An official from the Department informed the Committee that the Department had taken drastic steps in the integrated-sector plans of each province. The process is taking place in municipalities as well. The role of the HAD has also come clear during the presentations, and all budgets are directed in the same area.

Ms Mokgotho stated that she was not satisfied with responses from the Limpopo province when she asked when the Department started to realise the poor quality of work and disciplinary measures against contractors, and asked if the Department was still utilising the services of these contractors, and if there would be consequence management for officials colluding with contractors.

MEC Makamu explained that the Department's system did not allow one to see the work before it is completed. That is why the work is done in milestones. The Department is using three systems to monitor this milestone. These three systems visit each and every milestone and made a mark to continue to the next stage. Concerning consequence management, he said that this time around the Department made payment through the milestones. The previous contractor who abandoned the project left without paying the subcontractors. This matter is with the courts so that the sub-contractors could finish the work.

MEC Mashilo added that the Department sometimes discovers shoddy work when it is too late. But now, with the milestone approach, the Department can refuse to pay when it sees shoddy work. When it comes to blacklisting, the law is very simple. It says that if the contractor that has been blacklisted cannot work with government for ten years, they can come after that to try to trade. That is what the PFMA says.

Ms Tafeni asked if the Department had plans for challenges experienced in Informal Settlements.

MEC Makamu explained that there was a challenge during the first quarter. The Department has got money to do the work, but one finds that the municipality does not have the capacity for water reticulation. So, the problems had to do with planning. The project would not happen unless the bulk is in place. The projects are going to be designed in such a way that when they are completed, everyone benefits. The challenge is around water reticulation.

Ms Powell remarked that responses from the officials were not satisfactory. She asked if the Committee could call for a consequence management meeting with the Departments. She suggested further that the Committee should summon all executive managers of the metro municipalities to account for the use of the SDGs because the Committee was not getting the ‘meat’ from the answers. She asked if the Deputy Minister could brief the Committee on how the land parcels that have been released would be utilised. She remarked that Minister Kubayi has never attended committee meetings, which is a matter this Committee should act upon.

Mr Malematja remarked that the Department had done good work in arresting those who had colluded with the contractors and for discontinuing service with contractors who had abandoned work. The work of apartheid has been in existence for many years, while the ANC has been in power for only 30 years.

The Deputy Minister stated that the Department should be demanding a list of contractors who had been blacklisted from the provinces and had abandoned projects to be shared with the Committee. This request would also be given to the departments still to present before the Committee.

The Chairperson said that it is important for the Committee to find out how contractors are graded by the Department of Public Works and the CIDB to understand the grading system. She then reminded Ms Powell that Minister Kubayi has been to the Committee meetings before and explained why she could not be in Committee meetings on Wednesdays, which was a Cabinet day for Ministers and MECs. So, it was unfair to say that Minister Kubayi has not been to the meetings. She supported Ms Powell’s idea of creating a space for the metros to interact with the Committee on utilising USDGs.

The meeting was adjourned.

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