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; with Deputy Minister

Human Settlements

14 September 2022
Chairperson: Mr T Malatji (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 Deputy Minister was in attendance and made some contributions to the discussions.

The Northern Cape reported, in 2015, a condition assessment report on the eradication of asbestos material houses in the province was conducted. In total, there are 31 744 structures with asbestos in the province. There are approximately 20 328 housing roofs with asbestos, and there are 8 153 roofs of outdoor buildings with asbestos. The total replacement cost for all asbestos structures is about R1.103bn. The asbestos roofs would be replaced over a three-year period commencing in 2022/23. Approximately 6 776 roofs would be replaced each year until 2024/25.

The province stated that it had commissioned an audit to determine the extent of mud houses. The audit has commenced in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipality. The province would progressively prioritise the eradication of mud houses based on the outcomes of the audit. The main challenge the province would face in eradicating mud houses would be the lack of adequate funding. However, the eradication of mud houses would be prioritised. The estimated number of mud houses would only be established after June 2022, after completion of the audit. R14m is budgeted for this project. There are two projects in the budget; the third one would be added to the next business plan.

Regarding progress on unblocking blocked projects, the provincial department reported that the province is currently reconciling projects classified as blocked on Housing Subsidy System. These projects would be closed-off on HSS once the physical verification is completed. All the beneficiaries that are approved and not assisted, linked to these projects, would be prioritised.

The North West provincial department indicated that, during quarter three, it would finalise assessments on the progress of the removal of asbestos roofs. The department has received unverified numbers from some municipalities, and a physical verification would be conducted to determine the exact numbers and budget requirements thereof. Once all these processes are finalised, funding availability would be made in the business plan and the implementation process would follow and be planned for two financial years. A proper strategy to approach the programme would need to be developed to ensure qualified and specialist contractors are appointed to handle the asbestos roofs/houses. It further reported that it had delivered 12 498 houses in the current medium-term strategic framework period, including the eradication of mud houses though at an unquantified scale. Within the current financial year, a consultative process with municipalities has ensued to determine the extent of the challenge. The process also includes amending standard operating procedures to report on the achievements of the programme for the financial year. The process would be finalised by the end of September 2022.

The challenges on the issuance of title deeds are around beneficiaries that owe the North West Housing Corporation, difficulty in collecting original deeds of grands, and municipalities refusing to issue clearance certificate because the Housing Corporation owe them money. The matter is given attention by the national department to resolve the issues of the Housing Corporation properties, including cross-border properties. The department is taking over the function of implementing the programme and has written to developers to give their written consent, especially those that were contracted to deliver title deeds.

The Western Cape provincial department reported that it has not identified houses where the removal/replacement of asbestos roofs is required. The National Department has confirmed that there is legislation in place and a Cabinet decision to replace asbestos structures/roofs where properties are owned by the state. The department is engaging with the Housing Development Agency for expertise gained in assessing asbestos structures in other parts of the country. As there is no additional funding, the work would need to be funded from the Human Settlements Development Grant, and this would require the re-prioritisation of funding on other projects over the medium-term expenditure framework.

Challenges are on finding alternative/suitable land for decanting and relocation; slow pace of land release from government institutions like the national Department of Public Works and the Department of Transport; bulk infrastructure capacity constrain prevalence in most municipalities; lack of clear and coherent understanding and response from stakeholders involved in the upgrading process, amongst others.

On title deeds, the department reported that it is working on datacleansingandata. The department is in the process of establishing a supplementary database to confirm data integrity and verify information, which would then be forwarded to the national department to update the Housing Subsidy System. The other area that needs attention is technical and professional capacity. The challenge is that municipalities have supply chain management and funding difficulties in appointing conveyancers and town planners. The department is planning to consider a central appointment of resource teams to assist municipalities. It was further noted that municipalities do not have dedicated teams dealing with title deeds, leading to lack of in-house experience. The department is considering bringing in resources (through the Housing Development Agency) to bring in resources to assist municipalities.

Members wanted to know what the national department was doing for the poor people not qualifying for the RDP houses from both the Northern Cape and North West. They asked about the main challenges of eradicating mud houses and asbestos structures. They also wanted to understand the audit that was conducted in North West, on blocked projects, and the response of the departments on poor quality work by contractors. Has consequence management been applied to poor-performing contractors in unblocking blocked projects? They enquired if toy-toy was why the informal settlements appeared to be jumping the queue. They also wanted to understand why projects get started when there is no bulk infrastructure because that is not a reasonable reason for incomplete projects.

They commented that what the Northern Cape has presented was tantamount to corruption because millions of rands were spent even though there were no planned targets for Quarter one and service sites. They then asked what steps the Northern Cape department would take to achieve its targets on title deeds before 2023, because it has achieved only 71.

To the Western Cape, Members asked if it helped to open a case with the SAPS on the construction mafia. They asked when the department could be expected to appoint a new service provider, and when it would start working, because a consortium was closed down. They wanted to know if the department had considered that privately-owned land should be used to house informal settlements far from the city. They also enquired how targets would be achieved for the delivery of service sites. They then wanted to find out if the department had identified any malfeasance on the procurement of blocked projects; wanted to find out if there had been any engagement between the department, public works, and HDA on where the land parcels allocated for the Western Cape would be and what they would be used for because the national department of public works has released 44 land parcels. Members also asked if the department was planning to promulgate on illegal land invasions because the courts had instructed the City of Cape Town to provide the evictees with alternative accommodation.

Meeting report

Briefing by the Northern Cape Provincial Department of Human Settlements

Mr G Booysen, Acting Chief Director for Human Settlements, informed the Committee that the department is experiencing challenges regarding providing sites and land. These are around adequate budget to expedite the provision of services and bulk infrastructure, lack of suitable land, and lack of bulk infrastructure. The department has spent a considerable percentage of the budget on both grants combined. There are no targets to report and they would be reported at the end of the financial year.

Concerning the destruction of asbestos-roofed houses, the department reported that, in 2015, a condition assessment report on the eradication of asbestos material houses in the province was conducted. In total, there are 31 744 structures with asbestos in the province. There are approximately 20 328 housing roofs with asbestos, and there are 8 153 roofs of outdoor buildings with asbestos. The total replacement cost for all asbestos structures is almost R1.103 billion. The asbestos roofs would be replaced over a three-year period, commencing in 2022/23. Approximately 6 776 roofs would be replaced each year until 2024/25.

Mr Booysen also stated the province had commissioned an audit to determine the extent of mud houses. The audit has commenced in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipality. The province would progressively prioritise the eradication of mud houses based on the outcomes of the audit. The main challenge the province would face in eradicating mud houses would be the lack of adequate funding. However, the eradication of mud houses would be prioritised. The estimated number of mud houses would only be established after June 2022, after completion of the audit. R14m is budgeted for this project. There are two projects in the budget, and the third would be added to the next business plan.

On tenure security challenges and interventions, the province would prioritise pre- and post-1994 backlogs by allocating additional funding and sourcing additional capacity. The main challenges in fast-tracking the issuing of title deeds are caused by delays experienced in the gathering of FICA documents by municipalities / conveyancers; long turnaround time in getting registration documents signed by the municipalities; delays in the release of lands owned by departments of public works / rural development; re-layout of general plans is delaying the registration of properties; standardised operating procedures at the deeds office are not implemented; and the application for lost title deeds (individual / municipality). The performance on title deeds is bad. From the target of 620 for quarter one, the department has managed only 71. Regarding the audit of informal settlements, he stated the province has 162 informal settlements with 79 320 households. The provincial department would collaborate with the national department on this project.

Mr Booysen, regarding progress on unblocking blocked projects, reported the province is currently reconciling projects classified as blocked on HSS. These projects would be closed-off on HSS once the physical verification is completed. All the beneficiaries that are approved, not assisted, and linked to these projects would be prioritised.

(Graphs and tables were shown to illustrate district level breakdown of informal settlements; progress on title deeds; progress on the eradication of mud houses; and audit on asbestos roofs)

Briefing by the North West Provincial Department of Human Settlements
Mr James Mashigo, Acting HOD for Human Settlements, briefly told the Members that non-achievement on the performance of grants for the 2022/23 financial year is based on the fact that all four milestones (water, sewer, roads and storm-water) of sites must be completed before reporting on achievements. So far, only various milestones have been paid and expected delivery of 3400 sites would be at the end of quarter two.

Regarding progress on removing asbestos roofs, the department indicated it would finalise assessment during quarter three. The department has received unverified numbers from some municipalities and a physical verification would be conducted to determine the exact numbers and budget requirements thereof. Once all these processes are finalised, funding availability would be made in the business plan and implementation process would follow and be planned for two financial years. A proper strategy to approach the programme would need to be developed to ensure qualified and specialist contractors are appointed to handle the asbestos roofs/houses.

Mr Mashigo further reported that the department had delivered 12 498 houses in the current MTSF period including the eradication of mud houses though at an unquantified scale. Within the current financial year, a consultative process with municipalities has ensued to determine the extent of the challenge. The process also includes amending standard operating procedures to report on the achievements of the programme for the financial year. The process would be finalised by the end of September 2022.

He noted that the blocked projects budgeted for in the 2022/23 financial year are the remainder of what was assessed until 2017. More than 1 500 units have been delivered since the programme's inception. The department has noted a new trend of blocked projects, starting from 2018, and are assessed as and when they are received from municipalities. The numbers have increased now since the pandemic due to some contractors being liquidated, high material price increases and poor contractor performance. Those projects are still to be assessed by the department with the assistance of NHBRC (National Home Builders Registration Council).

Pertaining to the upgrading of informal settlements, the province has approximately 136 informal settlements assessed through the NUSP programme up to the 2020/21 financial year. A total of 109 upgrading plans have been developed through the NUSP since its inception in 2014. There is no provincial strategy in place so far. Seven settlements have been upgraded up to phase three during the 2021/22 financial year. Currently, an assessment of eight new settlements was done for the City of Matlosana, through the Housing Development Agency (HDA). The department is attending to a request from JB Marks Local Municipality to assess 16 new settlements. A UISP/PHSHDA Forum is established, which includes all municipalities, sector departments and other role players; it sits quarterly. The fiinalisation of the provincial strategy would give directives on the implementation and pipelining of upgrading informal settlements.

The challenges on the issuance of title deeds are around beneficiaries that owe the North West Housing Corporation (NWHC), difficulty collecting original deeds of grands, and municipalities refusing to issue clearance certificate because the NWHC owe them money. The matter is given attention by the national department to resolve the issues of NWHC properties, including cross border properties. The department is taking over the function of implementing the programme and has written to developers to give their written consent, especially those that were contracted to deliver title deeds. The department has an approved database of conveyancers to assist in accelerating the programme, and has sought consent from developers to take over the function, especially those with existing contracts.

(Graphs and tables were shown to illustrate progress on title deeds; planned informal settlements for upgrading during 2022/23 financial year; blocked projects; and summary of municipalities with asbestos)

Briefing by the Western Cape Provincial Department of Human Settlements
Mr Rob Smith, Director for Housing Settlement Implementation, reported no changes or shifts in the allocation on either of the grants. The 2022/23 Human Settlement Development Grant (HSDG) is R1 628 418 000, while the Informal Settlement Upgrading Partnership Grant for the 2022/23 financial year is R484 638 000.
The department has not identified houses where the removal/replacement of asbestos roofs is required. The National Department has confirmed that there is legislation in place and a Cabinet decision to replace asbestos structures/roofs where properties are owned by the state. The department is engaging with the HDA for expertise gained in assessing asbestos structures in other parts of the country. As there is no additional funding, the work would need to be funded by the HSDG, and this would require the re-prioritisation of funding on other projects over the MTEF.
Regarding replacing mud houses, Mr Smith stated that the department assessed 18 houses in the Oudtshoorn area in 2018 to replace the existing structures with BNG houses. The beneficiaries were screened, and the option of replacement of the large houses with a 40m² BNG house was workshopped. Seven of the beneficiaries opted for the replacement 40m² house, and these were delivered. The remaining beneficiaries opted to retain their much larger existing units with some repair. Other than these cases, no other traditional houses built of mud have been identified in the province for replacement. The department does, however, repair/replace storm/fire-damaged houses under the EHP programme. The department has identified projects that are blocked/stalled for various reasons, including land invasions, and refusal of occupants/tenants to vacate the land for development. The department is engaged in ongoing mediation to clear areas required for development. The most critical projects affected and measures are taken to attend to the cause of the blockage. The Joe Slovo Project, for example, experienced almost continuous delays due to the unwillingness of occupants of the site to relocate, despite mediation and court processes. Of the 2 886 units envisaged, only approximately 70% could be completed on the cleared portions of land. By 2020, the project had stalled and Sobambisana, the consortium appointed to develop the project, was being closed down.
The airport precinct informal settlements upgrade is experiencing difficulty in relocating households on the site, and re-occupation of cleared areas; the space to upgrade is very limited. Identified alternative relocation areas is a major challenge, as Welmoed & Ithemba Projects have invaded pockets. Mediation efforts with the occupants are continuing on both project areas. Concerning the Airport Infill Project, there have been two shooting incidents on construction sites after demands and threats of extortion. This has resulted in the construction works being effectively stalled. The contractor and department have agreed to terminate the works at a reduced scope due to continuing intimidation by construction mafia. Cases of intimidation and shooting incidents have been opened.
He further reported that the upgrade of the Khayelitsha informal settlement in Clanwilliam, in the Cederberg municipality, has been delayed due to a lack of infrastructure and very difficult on-site conditions. The settlement of 900 families continues to expand, with the municipality providing basic services. The current plan to install further shared services and access roads are being implemented, although the ground conditions lead to very high costs. The department is working closely with the municipality to improve conditions and ultimately to fully upgrade the area.

The Mossel Bay NUSP informal settlement upgrade experienced considerable unrest in the area towards the end of August 2023, with the community destroying approximately R2m of the contractor’s equipment and damaging the TRA units. The department is working with the municipality to manage the challenges; the situation is currently volatile; plans to continue construction are being assessed.

Challenges are on finding alternative/suitable land for decanting and relocation; slow-pace of land release from government institutions like the national Department of Public Works and the Department of Transport; bulk infrastructure capacity constrain prevalence in most municipalities; lengthy statutory approval process required for unlocking IS projects outside of the mandate of Human Settlements, e.g., EIAs, VULA, etc.;  lack of clear and coherent understanding and response from stakeholders involved in the upgrading process. As a result, the department is promoting the Super-Block as a short-medium term approach, recommending transversal approach to project planning/budgeting and implementation; lobbying for additional funding like Asset Reserve Fund; lobbying and negotiating trade-offs with other organ of states, and fostering IGR/Transversal engagements.

Regarding title deeds, the department reported that it is working on data cleansing and data gathering. The test is on the incompleteness of information on HSS and lack of project information. The department is in the process of establishing a supplementary database to confirm data integrity and verify information, which would then be forwarded to the national Department of Human Settlements to update HSS. The other area that needs attention is technical and professional capacity. The challenge is that municipalities have SCM/ Funding difficulties in appointing conveyancers and town planners. The department is planning to consider a central appointment of resource teams to assist municipalities. It was indicated that municipalities do not have dedicated teams that deal with title deeds, and this leads to lack of in-house experience. The department is considering bringing in resources, through the HAD (Housing Development Agency), to assist municipalities.

(Graphs and tables were shown to illustrate quarter one financial and non-financial performance of the HSDG and ISUPG for the 2022/23 financial year; performance on title deeds; ISUPG Business Plan and targets; categorisation of informal settlements; and stalled projects. See presentation document)

Discussion
Deliberations with the Northern Cape and North West Provincial Departments

Ms N Tafeni (EFF) remarked policies were created for housing development since 1994. The majority of the poor were not qualifying for the housing programmes. She then wanted to know what the national department was doing for the poor people who were not qualifying for the RDP houses. She also asked what the main challenges are regarding the eradication of mud houses. She further enquired about challenges for eradication of asbestos structures in the Northern Cape, and wanted to understand the audit conducted in North West on blocked projects. She also asked for the department’s response to poor quality work by contractors.

Mr Booysen (Northern Cape) noted that the department had given an indication, in its presentation, about the asbestos in all the structures in the province. The department knows what is happening, and that these are priorities that should have been normalised. He further stated there are two projects on the eradication of mud houses on the approved business plan. The third one has just been added as a priority.

Mr Mashigo (North West) stated they have engaged with the municipality for the bulk infrastructure in Naledi, but the municipality delayed the procurement process. He said this was disturbing the department's completion of the projects.

Mr Neville Chainee, Director: Planning and Strategy, National Department of Human Settlements, said that when a province or municipality secures a service site, a person who does not qualify has got an opportunity to buy from that site. But those earning more than R3 000 have a different channel to follow.

Ms S Mokgotho (EFF) asked about challenges relating to asbestos structures and mud houses in the North West, seeing that there has been no progress made, because the department appears to be clueless on what should be done. She asked the North West and Northern Cape why monitoring took long to see irregular expenditure while construction was happening. She also wanted to know if consequence management has been applied to poor performing contractors in unblocking blocked projects.

Mr Booysen stated that blocked projects on HSS should be closed. The reconciliation stated they were not blocked.

Mr Mashigo said they had terminated the contractors who failed to do the work. The introduction of monthly meetings with developers has started to bear fruit. On the eradication of mud houses, he said it appears the municipalities would want to deal with them when there is a disaster, and the target is sitting at 5 000. Numbers were still being quantified on the asbestos structures. This is dealt with as part of the rural development programme. That is why the mud houses have not been reported separately. The department does not want to mislead Parliament. For this year, the department would deal with 520 units.

Mr M Tseki (ANC) asked how the North West and Northern Cape have dealt with mud houses in the past because it appears the departments are just responding to a disaster or emergency. He remarked North West did not say anything about pre-1994 figures on title deeds. The pre-1994 figures on title deeds should be dwindling instead of stagnating. He then asked the national department why there was always low performance in quarter one. He enquired if toy-toy was why the informal settlements appeared to be jumping the queue. He also wanted to understand why projects get started when there is no bulk infrastructure in place because that is not a sufficient reason for incomplete projects. He further remarked he did not think there would be challenges on land release matters in the Northern Cape because it has huge land. Land release should be fast-tracked in the rural areas to check if RDP-built houses are still existing or if they have changed into something else.

Mr Bentley Vaas, MEC:  Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs,   Northern Cape, stated the Northern Cape is sitting with the challenge of land. The land is big, but it is privately owned, almost 72%. This means that this land has to be bought from private owners.

Mr Mashigo explained the target for pre-’94 issuance of title deeds is 189. The Ministry has made interventions. Sometimes, the problem lies with housing corporations and municipalities. The intervention by the Minister would alleviate the challenges that are encountered.

Ms Lenah Miga, North West MEC for Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs, added that much needs to be done on the pre-’94 title deeds. Every month and quarter, title deeds are issued directly by the department to the people. They are not given to the municipalities because they use them against the people. A total of 152 title deeds were issued in the Madikwe area and surrounding areas. The process would be speeded up as soon as the conveyancers are appointed.

Mr C Malematja (ANC) commented it is good to see the North West moving towards people-driven development. He also indicated what the Northern Cape has presented was tantamount to corruption because millions of Rands were spent, even though there were no planned targets for quarter one and service sites. He asked what steps the department would take to achieve its targets on title deeds before 2023, because it has achieved only 71.

Mr Booysen stated there is no abuse of public funds by the department. Instead, the department has performed well in the past financial years. It has been given more to upgrade informal settlements. There are projects that are planned to be achieved at the end of the financial year.

MEC Vaas stated that the department had encountered a series of challenges on title deeds. That is why it is speeding up the appointment of conveyancers in five different regions in the province. The department would start with Namakwa and Francis Baard, and issue 5 000 title deeds.

Ms E Powell (DA) enquired if a new parallel structure of the war room would be established, because the existing structure was meant to fast-track unblocking blocked projects. She asked what remedial actions would be taken for non-performing executives. She remarked it is important to have a standard format for reports to be presented to the Committee because some departments have come to present first quarter performance.

To the North West, she asked what actions would be taken against non-performing contractors because 247 houses have to be completed. She also enquired if there have been contractors that have been blacklisted; asked what would be done on the revision of targets, because targets have not been met on BNG Housing; asked why there were no targets on the fourth-quarter report. She also wanted to find out what would be done to address blocked projects. To the Northern Cape, she asked for clarity on the bulk infrastructure, and she lamented it was difficult for the Committee to dive deep into the presentation because it talked of quarter one. She also wanted to understand the interventions that would be undertaken by political heads to ensure municipalities are capacitated because the department cannot issue title deeds due to delays by municipalities.

Mr Booysen responded that the services are reported as water and sanitation. In the APP, the whole service is reported. The department would send the Committee a detailed breakdown. He further indicated the USDG and ISUPG had not been reported on quarter-one achievements because there was a ruling from the Constitutional Court that advised the department not to procure. But there are plans in place.

Mr Mashigo reported the figures for the first quarter have not yet been received. The department to provide relief for now to ensure the projects are completed, so that people could get their houses, or not spend the money at all.

Mr Muzi Mashabane, Director: Planning and Technical Services, North West DHS, said that parts that have not been reflected in the USDG were reflected in the ISUPG. R250m is reflected on the expenditure, but not on the budget.

Mr Chainee informed the Committee that a number of legal steps that have to be taken when blacklisting a contractor. National Treasury has implemented a process to do that. For example, there is a contractor that has been blacklisted in Limpopo. This contractor would not be allowed to trade with the government and state entities for the next ten years. He further indicated that there would not be another structure parallel to the War Room. Some situations result in blockages, and some of them could be technical in nature – geological, community protests, heritage, etc. But not all of it is technical. In each circumstance, there are details that are undertaken in terms of capacity, technical skills, duplication, etc. So, the department has to be able to provide support. There is no parallel structure. The War Room has got capable people.

Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, Ms Pamela Tshwete, added that the War Room has performance indicators, and is not clashing with the work of the officials. It is there to fast-track disaster processes.

Ms N Sihlwayi (ANC) remarked that North West and Northern Cape presentations said nothing new. The role of the Committee is to evaluate their performance. These two provinces were raising challenges and complaints. The matter is about addressing inequalities. It appears provinces only perform when they want to. Asbestos structures were condemned because they are not good for people's health. People are waiting for services, but the provinces appear not to be ready. She does not understand the exemption the Northern Cape asked for asbestos. She suggested the two provinces should send a strategy to the Committee on eradicating mud houses, especially for township establishments, because it appears that this cannot be done yet it should be prioritised because the provinces are already struggling with title deeds. Also, she wanted to know if the departments have managed to recover their money from contractors who left projects unfinished, even though they claimed they could do the work. She said that she was worried about these two provinces because they have to carry out the aspirations of the people, but nothing has happened.

Mr Booysen responded that the request for exemption on asbestos was based on the study done in 2015 because there is a need to repackage the intervention for the project.

MEC Vaas stated that work is given to performing contractors. The provincial department intervenes in time and does not wait until the collapse of the project. He said his department had decided to speed up service delivery. He further said that the matter of the budget was posing a big problem. With more money, the department can do more to meet the challenges to ensure people are happy.

Ms Sindiswe Ngxongo, Acting DG, National Department of Human Settlements, commented that the sector is finding itself in the planning of eradication of asbestos structures and mud houses. The issuance of title deeds would be speedily attended to as soon as the service sites are identified. Title deeds for the North West Housing Corporation have become a priority for the Minister. On the non-performing municipalities, she stated a meeting had been convened by COGTA, on how to capacitate municipalities, including revenue collection and IGR.

The Deputy Minister told the Committee that the department decided not to take money back to Treasury, but to look at other provinces that are not using the money and give that money to North West and Northern Cape. Concerning asbestos, she pointed out that the majority of townships have got asbestos roofs, and it is going to take a long time to eradicate them. For example, the majority of houses in Mdantsane have got asbestos roofs. She noted that the three spheres of government were working together on speeding up the issuance of title deeds. Pertaining to non-performing contractors, she said that even those that have completed projects had been found to have used cheap material. Provinces were clearly not doing monitoring. The department is now working with the NHRBC for quality monitoring. She stressed it is the responsibility of the communities to know contractors so that communities could monitor the work of the contractors, because the projects belong to the communities. She also stated legal processes should be followed before axing the contractor from the project.

The Chairperson stated the department needs to ensure it gets the services from the provincial departments. It is not good to hear that the bulk of the Northern Cape land belongs to private owners. The Committee would like to see the Northern Cape DHS battling it out in courts for these lands. The departments and municipalities should start planning together.

Deliberations with the Western Cape Provincial Department
Mr Malematja asked if it helped to open a case with the South African Police Services (SAPS) on the construction mafia. He asked when the department would appoint a new service provider, and when it would start working, because a consortium was closed down. Has the department considered that privately-owned land should be used to house informal settlements far from the city? He also asked how targets would be achieved for the delivery of service sites. He wanted to find out if the department had identified any malfeasance in the procurement of blocked projects.

Mr David Alli, Acting Director for Planning, said that the municipality and the department do the assessments for developing informal settlements far from the inner city. All projects are listed as blocked. The department is trying to change the direction, especially when looking at inherited spatial planning.

Ms Phila Mayisela, Chief Director: Human Settlement Implementation, said that there were no irregularities reported, but the major thing is that people are refusing to relocate. She said more improvements would be seen in the service sites in the second and third quarters.

Mr Tseki asked for clarity on why the department had asked the HDA to identify asbestos-roofed houses when it (department) could not identify them. He wanted to know what happens when a mud house owner applies for an RDP house but does not qualify; enquired why the department seems to be dragging its feet on relocating people who are occupying the rail line; wanted to know if there have been any costs incurred when contracts were terminated; remarked the department failed to engage with people transparently in Mossel Bay because it was not understandable how people could fight when they are being developed; asked for clarity on challenges for blocked projects resulting from EIAs; wanted to find out if the department has got specific projects to quantify for land acquisition; wanted to understand if there have been transfers on quarter one expenditure because it looks good. He asked if the numbers for pre-’94 issuance of title deeds are going down. Lastly, he wanted to know the response of the department to the informal settlement that is growing at an alarming rate in Acacia Park.

Ms Kahmiela August, Acting HOD, Western Cape Department of Human Settlements, stated that there is a serious capacity challenge on title deeds. The department has institutionalised how it should be responded to. In the next three years, the data would be cleaned up. The teams are in the field to engage with the municipalities to bring down the backlog.

Mr Alli explained to the Committee that the complexity of EIAs is that they take a long time to do and how they will be done. The projects are released for service sites for upgrading informal settlements.

Mr Heinrich Mostert, Deputy Director: Land and Asset Management, stated that, without land, there is nothing that can be done. That is why the department is engaging municipalities and public works department. It is still waiting for replies on large tracks of land.

Mr Smith said that there was no funding on the first quarter.

Ms Mayisela stated that they always engage with the communities as the department. The instigations in Mossel Bay were caused by people not on the housing list. She further indicated costs are incurred when a contract is terminated. In all instances, the department had to pay more when a contract had to be terminated. She said the informal settlement in Acacia Park is the property of the City of Cape Town, and the department would try to engage with the city.

On the asbestos matter, she said that the department is committed to expediting the project's analysis, which is why it has asked the HDA to assist. She pointed out that when a person applies for an RDP house, the department uses the same development footprint, because the size of the ERF limits it. So, it has to demolish the mud house first and then build the BNG house.

Ms Sihlwayi asked the department to explain what it meant when it said no asbestos structures would be removed in the province, even though they are visible to her. She asked what the department has put in place to normalise the situation where there is violence and sabotage and contractors are fighting amongst themselves. Is there a stakeholder forum in place for such? She wanted to understand if there was no need to settle people in the Clanwilliam area because of its rockiness. What plan does the department have to ensure that people get houses? She wanted to understand if the concentration of housing in the metro meant people were being pulled from the periphery and brought to the city to live in.

Ms Mayisela informed the Committee that the department had got a steering committee. The construction mafia is the one instigating the violence. The steering committees are afraid of the violence erupting, even though they work well with the department. The matter has started improving since the department engaged with the SAPS. Site managers are being shot at. As a result, the department has asked service providers to include security in tender documents. A contract has been terminated in the Joe Slovo area because the opened-up area was invaded. She further pointed out the ground conditions in Clanwilliam are costly. The concern of the developers is geological because they have to use dynamites to break the rocks. There are plans to relocate people to a suitable area. On relocating people to the city, she indicated that the need is within the pressure around the metro. Municipalities have been encouraged to apply for social amenities.

Ms Mokgotho remarked that the development of informal settlements in Acacia Park shows a bad picture of the country and how the Western Cape is governed. She asked who owns the suitable land in the remote areas of the Western Cape, because the department is stating there is no suitable land for the service site. She also asked if this land is accessible to rich and middle-class people only, and what would happen to poor people who need houses. She wanted to know if first preference could be given to South Africans at a price that middle-class people could buy, because rich people with dollars and pounds were buying this suitable land yet were not staying in SA. She also asked how soon the asbestos structures would be identified, and if the department chose not to identify them when it indicated they were non-existing.

Ms Mayisela stated that the department was looking at appropriating the land. If private owners of land are not taking up the offer from government, government expropriates without compensation. This happened in the Western Cape because the owner was staying in Namibia. She said that more improvements would be seen in the service sites in the second and third quarters. She also agreed that people with dollars and pounds buy a lot of land in Cape Town. But the property that was sold belonging to the SABC in Sea Point has been reserved by the department for housing purposes. The same happens with other properties.

Ms Tafeni asked if the provincial department could provide clarity on land invasions and illegal occupations. She enquired what preparations were in place for the 600 people evicted in the Southern Cape. She also wanted to know if there have been engagements between the department, municipality and the covid-19 informal settlements. Lastly, she asked what the department's response was on rapid land release, and if there were new plans for challenges in informal settlements.

Mr Mostert said that more projects would be done, and more properties would be transferred for rapid release of land project.

Ms Mayisela reported that the bulk of the COVID-19 settlement is in a wetland. The City of Cape Town would have come on board to provide services. It is a challenge, and the department would keep an eye on the progress.

Ms Powell remarked on what was once her constituency, Atlantis and Mamre, that many homes still have asbestos roofs. Analysis and investigation only need to be speeded up. She wanted to find out if there has been any engagement between the Department, Public Works, and HDA on where the land parcels allocated for the Western Cape would be, and what they would be used for, because the national Department of Public Works has released 44 land parcels. She wanted to understand if the provincial department was planning to promulgate on illegal land invasions, because the courts had instructed the City of Cape Town to provide the evictees with alternative accommodation. Lastly, she asked how the department’s newly developed app is going to assist in the issuance of title deeds.

Mr Benjamin Nkosi, Director: Strategy, Monitoring and Evaluation, said that the app was developed to assist people in applying housing needs, from the comfort of their homes.

Mr Mostert said that the Western Cape had been allocated four land parcels. A lot of development is taking place in the Driftsands area.

Ms Mokgotho asked if the department was prepared to lower the price on suitable land. She also enquired if it has done an audit on suitable land in Western Cape owned by people who are not staying in SA.

Ms Mayisela said this aspect does not fall inside the department's mandate. The department only identifies the land and reserves it for housing. A piece of land has been identified in Hout Bay, which was previously meant for white people. The department has not done any audit on suitable land. It is only limited to land parcels along the transport corridor, and has been packaged through the HDA.

Ms Ngxongo stated that the department is moving in the right direction by cleansing the data. The zero achievement on service site is not in line with the priorities of the sectors. Blocked projects have been addressed well, and the matter of violence has been elevated to the justice sector.

Mr Chainee told the Committee that the Department of Public Works has never said it would not release the land for infrastructure. There is a need for the national Department of Human Settlements and the Land Reform Department to ensure the land is released to poor households. The Defence Department owns another piece of land, and that also depends on what it wants the land to be used for.

In her concluding remarks, the Deputy Minister stated that those people staying on the railway line do not want to be removed. The Western Cape department and the City of Cape Town were attending to that so that there was no violence resulting from this matter. She then noted all departments were not doing well on title deeds. A strategy is needed to ensure the process is speeded up. Houses cannot be built without bulk infrastructure.

The Chairperson remarked that an easier way to transfer ownership must be found regarding title deeds. Maybe a deeper technical process needs to be analysed for the issuance of title deeds. There is a need to find a solution, as it appears all the provinces are struggling with the title deeds. He suggested the security cluster should start working on the construction mafia because it might take over the country one day. It is not possible to relax when there are illegal operations in the country.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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