Engagement with Metropolitan Municipalities on Urban Settlements Development Grant, informal settlements upgrading, serviced sites and land invasions
08 March 2023
Chairperson: Ms R Semenya (ANC)
The Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements engaged with the eThekwini Municipality, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, and Buffalo City Municipality on the Urban Settlements Development Grant, informal settlements, service sites and land invasions. This was part of the Committee’s theme this term to engage with metros on the use of grants and general matters relating to housing.
The eThekwini Municipality informed the Committee that the city’s resilience had been tested as eThekwini through many flood storms with the most severe being in 2019. The climate change crisis has affected the city's budget and planning efforts. Further, the lockdowns and economic shutdowns because of the Covid-19 pandemic have also harmed the functions of the city. The civil unrest of 2021 has had a devastating impact on the city's development. The floods of 2022 which have not been experienced in about 100 years, have slowed the city’s ability to deliver social services to communities. The response of the city to these crises has been robust and efficient; this has ensured that services are delivered to communities.
The delegation from the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality (NMBM) stated it is embarking on formalising informal settlements. Land invasion is still a big issue in the NMBM. But a dedicated team is focused on assessing and responding to land invasions. In the 2023/24 financial year, plans are in place to ensure the land invasion is attended to at various stages. The current land invasion strategy includes using a unique number of shacks to control growth. The Municipality is in the process of developing a Security Plan with Safety and Security to protect the municipal land. There have also been communication strategies through cluster meetings with local leadership to ensure its collaboration.
Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality, like the other municipalities, proposed that amendments are required to the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE Act) 19 of 1998 if municipalities are to succeed in curbing land invasions as the Act lacks a clear time in which shacks can be demolished without a court order. These limitations seriously impact the Municipality's response to the land invasion. The Municipality then recommended that the Committee considers the amendment of the Act. This is because ensuring alternative housing arrangements for those removed from illegally occupied land makes it hard for the Municipality to respond to land invasions.
The Portfolio Committee applauded the municipalities for their continued work and pointed out some performance concerns, such as in the NMBM, which has had a low budget spend. The Committee also mentioned that the issue of land invasion was a serious issue that needed to be dealt with decisively by the municipalities. The Committee expressed that there was no need to amend the PIE Act as the municipalities can deal with land invasions with some Members indicating that the issue of land invasions was because the municipalities failed to correctly engage with communities.
The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee officially opened the in-person meeting and allowed everyone to introduce themselves. She highlighted that this was a continuation of the previous meeting to ensure that the metropolitan municipalities deliver on their mandate. Apologies were acknowledged.
Briefings by the metros
The Mayor of the city of eThekwini, Mr Mxolisi Kaunda, thanked the Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements for the invitation to brief the Committee on the work that the eThekwini Municipality has done. eThekwini has a population of about 4 million with 60% of the Municipality being rural and 40% being the most urban and affluent. This, therefore, make the Municipality vulnerable to unique challenges compared to many other municipalities in the country.
Mayor Kaunda noted to the Committee that the city’s resilience had been tested as eThekwini was through many flood storms with the most severe being in 2019. This climate change crisis has harmed the city's budget and planning efforts. Furthermore, the lockdowns and economic shutdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic have also affected the functions of the city. The civil unrest of 2021 had a devastating impact on the city's development. The floods of 2022 which have not been experienced in about 100 years, have slowed the city’s ability to deliver social services to communities. The response of the city to these crises has been robust and efficient; this has ensured that services are delivered to communities.
City Manager, Mr Musa Mbhele, took the Committee through the budget and expenditure of eThekwini Municipality. It has set aside a fund for capital preparation to ensure that there is capital for the city's budget. Other measures have been put in place to ensure checks and balances and monitoring mechanisms.
The Deputy City Manager, Ms Beryl Khanyile, told the Committee that eThekwini Municipality had had budget cuts and there are projected budget cuts, which has an impact on the city's ability to deliver services to communities. The city is unique as it has a large population of informal settlements combined with an urban settlement. This has required the enactment of various programmes to respond to these unique challenges. The growth of the city over the last seven years shows that the city is dealing with a continuously moving target, coupled with a very limited budget.
It was mentioned that urgent amendments are required to the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE Act) 19 of 1998 if municipalities are to succeed in curbing land invasions. eThekwini and other metros provided a comprehensive amendment bill to the National Government on this matter as the Act lacks a clear period in which shacks can be demolished without a court order. For every eviction process, even if private, municipalities are required to provide alternative accommodation, and this places a huge burden on the municipalities financially.
A Land Invasion Control Branch forms part of the Security Management Unit with the purpose of preventing the unlawful occupation of land at eThekwini Municipality. Three regions with the deployment of over 60 key informal settlements out of 581. All 15 teams of the Branch are equitably deployed over all regions from 07:00 am – 3:30 pm, Monday to Thursday and 07:00 am – 3:00 pm on Friday. Overtime is paid for weekend work.
Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality
The Mayoral Committee Member (MMC) for Human Settlement in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality (NMBM), Mr Tukela Zumani, stated that the Municipality has been doing well. The National Department of Human Settlements approved and gazetted an allocation of R334 876 000 to NMBM in line with the 2022/23 Informal Settlements Upgrading Partnership Grant (ISUPG), a business plan that the NMBM submitted. The allocation of the ISUPG serves to promote integration through the provision of amenities and basic infrastructure in the poorest areas of the city and improve the dignity of the poor. There has been a low expenditure for many reasons, such as the Council’s approval was concluded on 21 September 2022, enabling other processes to commence with the implementation of the Council resolution. Therefore, due to the delays in implementing the ISUPG, the ISUPG programme had to be revised. Some projects were removed and new projects were created, ready for implementation relating to roads and stormwater, sanitation and social facilitation included. Going forward, the city is ensuring through engagement with the Council to ensure that there are no delays in the budget.
The Municipality is formalising the informal settlements. Land invasion is still a big issue in the NMBM. But a dedicated team is focused on assessing and responding to land invasions. In the 2023/24 financial year, plans are in place to ensure the land invasion is attended to at various stages. The current land invasion strategy includes using a unique number of shacks to control growth. The Municipality is in the process of developing a Security Plan with Safety and Security to protect the municipal land. Communication strategies have also been through cluster meetings with local leadership to ensure collaboration.
Ms Dawn McCarthy, Senior Director: Strategic Planning and Coordination, NMBM, told the Committee that the Urban Settlements Development Grant (USDG) for 2022/23 focuses on servicing sites, tarring of gravel roads, provision of parks, electrification of subsidised housing, public lighting, water and sanitation services. In 2020/21, R302 million additional USDG funds were transferred to NMBM in March 2021 and included in the budget in April 2021. USDG expenditure is continually monitored project-by-project and it is anticipated that 100% expenditure will be reached for the 2022/23 financial year.
Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality
The City Manager of Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality, Mr Mxolisi Yawa, told the Committee that there are limitations in the provisions of the PIE Act. These limitations seriously impacted the Municipality’s response to the land invasion. He then recommended that the Committee considers the amendment of the Act. This is because ensuring alternative housing arrangements for those removed from illegally occupied land makes it hard for the Municipality to respond to land invasions.
The Chairperson welcomed the presentations and invited the Members to pose questions.
Mr A Tseki (ANC) welcomed the presentations. He indicated that the issue of land invasion was serious and needed to be dealt with decisively by the municipalities. He added that the municipalities presented a common issue around the PIE Act and the limitations of the Act. However, there are still issues of invasions witnessed across municipalities. Despite the resources that the municipalities have, land invasions are still prevalent. He commented that these land invasions result from poor communication and engagement with the communities so that people know which land cannot be occupied including the reasons for such.
He asked the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, whose land is being invaded in the Municipality, what happens if the invaded land is private, then who are the owners of the land? Does the city need to build the occupied private land to make it habitable for residential purposes? If so, how much is that process? He commented that sometimes land invasion could be indirectly planned so that land owners end up bidding for the land’s sale to the Municipality. Therefore, there should be efforts to closely look at deliberate acts of land invasion to make sure that the systems of government are not deliberately manipulated.
He added that sometimes people invade land because they want to jump the waiting line in housing settlements as they know that the Municipality will have to provide alternative housing if they are removed from the invaded land.
Mr Tseki further asked the delegation of the NMBM about the third tranche, where it was mentioned in the presentation that municipality money was used with the hope that it would be replaced. Is this therefore not a risk to other priorities?
He highlighted that the figures in Buffalo City Municipality show that the Municipality is forging well. He however asked about the land parcel sales mentioned in the presentation. Whose land is being sold and why is it being sold? He asked for clarity on what this meant indicating that such land could be allocated to people to respond to the issue of illegal land invasions faced by the Municipality.
Ms M Makesini (EFF) welcomed the presentation. On the issue of the PIE Act, she said that the Act makes it hard for the people of South Africa to have land ownership rights. Therefore, what is the plan to buy the land from the private sector instead of removing people?
She added that there are a lot of challenges that the NMBM faces as the National Department of Human Settlements (DHS)’s report noted a lot of challenges faced by the Municipality, however, these challenges have not been represented in the presentation to the Portfolio Committee. She questioned whether the report from the DHS was in-sync with the Municipality’s findings.
Ms N Sihlwayi (ANC) welcomed the presentation. She pointed out that it was worrisome that when municipalities are invited, the political heads and managers always apologise and do not attend the meetings. Ms Sihlwayi highlighted that there seems to be a misunderstanding of the role of the Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements. When the principals of the municipalities do not make themselves available to appear before the Committee, it shows that there is no understanding of the Committee’s role.
She asked the delegation from the eThekwini Municipality on the issue of land. There are legal departments in the Municipality. Are they not effective in responding to the issue of land invasion as there seems to be inefficiency in dealing with this issue despite the resources that the Municipality has availed to deal with the issue?
In all the presentations, the municipalities have not been clear on the strategy to stop land invasion including having a land audit so that people know which land may not be occupied. She further asked if the people were invading the inner-city land or if it was the land in the periphery.
The Committee does not understand how eThekwini Municipality utilises the USDG to upgrade hostels as these are traditional ways of living for many people in eThekweni.
Ms Sihlwayi requested the delegation from eThekwini to avoid using the word 'force' when referring to the Municipality's engagement with the private landowners to give up their land as they own the land and cannot be forced unlawfully. However, instead of forcing private land owners, the Municipality should be rightly engaged as the private land owners are a critical part of the government. In the presentation, it was mentioned that the eThekwini Municipality is working on building a school. Therefore, how is the Department of Education participating in the initiative of building schools in eThekwini?
In Buffalo City, which land is illegally invaded? It is important to know the trend of these invasions so that there is a robust response. Further, she asked who is illegally selling council land and what consequence management has been put in place to respond.
Ms Sihlwayi added that the NMBM should provide a clearer picture of the issues faced on the ground. What is the plan to deal with the issue of title deeds?
Dr N Khumalo (DA) thanked the presenters. The presentation from the eThekwini Municipality mentioned grant spending following the disasters that befell the Municipality. Therefore, what is the time plan for the people to receive the assistance and see the actual changes?
She commended eThekwini for working with the city of Cape Town on the scaling of strategies to respond to a land invasion. This is because there is no national standardised way of dealing with these illegal land invasions. She then encouraged the other municipalities to ensure that there are knowledge-sharing efforts to ensure robust efforts to respond to the common and cross-cutting challenges of the municipalities.
There was no budget for upgrading informal settlements. Why is that?
Buffalo City, what strategies have been implemented? How many people have been impacted in actual numbers on the grant spending instead of relying on percentages?
Ms Khumalo congratulated the NMBM on the progress, including the delivery of services. What have been some of the challenges around the Municipality's budget spend to ensure better service of the communities?
Ms E Powell (DA) asked eThekwini Municipality what the response to the Auditor-General’s report on irregular expenditure has been. What measures have been put in place to respond to the issues raised by the report?
On awarding the water tank tender, can the Mayor and the city manager explain to the Committee how this has been managed and who has been awarded the tender for the water tanks? Is the eThekwini Municipality currently using water tankers? If so, how has the city moved around the court process that is underway?
Mr C Malematja (ANC) said there had been loopholes in the NMBM's consideration of using drones to deal with the land invasion. How will the issue of privacy be ensured in this case?
He commented that eThekwini has a different history compared to the other metros. When dealing with the issue of land invasion, which type of land is occupied? Also, how is the Municipality engaging the private sector to release the land to respond to the increasing demand for land?
What are the measures to stop illegal land invasion? On the recommendation to amend the PIE Act, he said that the Committee is not convinced that there is a need for this as there no not enough patrols. Once this has been bolstered, then that recommendation could be attended to.
Mr Malematja said there are discrepancies between what the NMBM and the department presented. These are issues that should be ironed out to ensure that the Committee has a clear picture of the issues that the Municipality is facing.
The Chairperson indicated that the Committee visited eThekwini in the aftermath of the floods and most of the attendees of the public meeting were from Cornubia. There were complaints about the lack of service delivery in Cornubia. She urged the eThekwini Municipality to look closely into this as this is a new housing project and it is expected to have good services such as a good drainage system, water management, and roads.
She indicated that all the municipalities are complaining about the PIE Act. There are already provisions of the PIE Act, but the municipalities do not act decisively. Has the issue of land invasion been tabled with the national department including strategies that have been put in place to address the issue?
The issue of informal settlement is a serious issue. How many of the municipalities have responded to this issue such as building accessible settlements for people in informal settlements to ensure they have access to opportunities? On the issue of backyard dwellers raised in Gauteng, are any of the municipalities facing this issue?
On the issue raised by Ms Powell around the water tanker tender and its operations in eThekwini, Mayor Kaunda said that this issue is still in court and the eThekwini Municipality will respond fully once the court process has been completed.
Mayor Kaunda further responded to the questions raised by highlighting that looking at the location of KwaZulu Natal and eThekwini, it is not the same as the other provinces. When people want opportunities, the cities they consider are mainly Durban or Johannesburg. And when they relocate to Durban due to economic opportunities and other attractive prospects, this then results in a burden on the city planning and an overwhelming population which then causes the settlement crisis. The city is engaging with various stakeholders, including traditional leaders, to collaborate to close illegal settlements in eThekwini. Mr Kaunda notes that in other cases, the illegal occupation of the land has been a deliberate action as a way for some traditional leaders to generate money. He indicated that the Municipality has continued to engage the Ingonyama Trust Board so that there is buy-in to improve the city.
On the PIE Act, Mayor Kaunda said that the eThekwini Municipality could not stop land invasions within the 48-hour time frame stipulated by the Act as the geographical space is vast. This is because many invasions are hard to manage within the 48-hour window despite having patrols and engaging community forums. He highlighted that the government should instil a culture that encourages people not to invade the land. The city engages forums such as Abahlali baseMjondolo. One of the effective ways to respond to land invasions is to develop rural areas so that people do not need to migrate to already overburdened cities. The battle of informal settlements could not be won without involving NGOs such as Abahlali baseMjondolo. They were very vocal last year during the session when the Executive Director of the UN-HABITAT was here. The sector’s relationship with this NGO has to be formalized as they better understand issues within informal settlements.
On the revitalization of inner cities, metros will be assisting in this regard and this will help the sector in accommodating the affected in buildings owned by metros and the public sector. A decision has already been communicated that no people should be housed in community halls.
On the reduction of funding, the Municipality has a plan put in place. The business plan put in place is quite specific on how the municipality spending will be allocated. eThekwini has the capacity; there are clinics run by the city. The city is also building a clinic on behalf of the Department of Health; another project is a school that is being built on behalf of the Department of Education and once they are done, these projects will be handed over to the relevant departments.
On the issue of the amendment of the PIA Act, Mr Mbhele suggested that the municipalities make formal submissions to the Committee on this issue. This is because some of the invasions are planned by crime syndicates who are armed and vicious and the invasions are done in darkness. Mr Mbhele told the Committee that the land invasions occur in both inner city and periphery locations. However, the PIE ACT becomes a limitation as it requires their settlements and profiling, a process that takes a long time to complete. Not all the invasions are of people who are desperate for a settlement. Engaging the community is hard as communities are afraid of these syndicates.
Ms Khanyile added that the financial support from the national government had enabled eThekwini to gradually recover from the floods and the impact of the unrest. The city's economy depends on the Southern Side of eThekwini which has major industries, and this is the side which was hit the hardest by the floods. And the Municipality has made all attempts to secure this area to protect industries, including ensuring that the roads are fixed and insurable.
On the land that private owners occupy, there are energumens with the private owners to allow the eThekwini Municipality to be able to deliver services to people occupying the land.
On the issue of land invasions in the NMBM, Mr Zamani said that although there are measures put in place on the land invasions, there are still loopholes in having a robust response. He said that many lessons had been learnt from Cape Town City in dealing with land invasions. The drones deployed in Cape Town work on geodata, therefore comparing the topography of the land compared to when last it took it. There are no pictures that would be captured, so there will be no issues in terms of privacy issues.
eThekwini has a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Education and the Department of Health, these departments transfer funds to the eThekwini Municipality which then executes the projects. Once the project is complete; it is handed over to the relevant department.
The NMBM is aware of the deliberate invasion processes to jump the line for housing by some people. The Municipality is looking closely at this issue. There have been engagements with communities to educate the people about the impacts of land invasions. He added that the legal department is not winning when responding to land invasions because the courts usually favour the land invaders given the provisions of the PIE Act. This, therefore, make the NMBM very limited in capacity to address the issue of land invasions.
Land invasion is prevalent in outlying places. And people seeking opportunities in the city have driven a high migration which has overwhelmed the cities, thus overstretching city planning and land invasion have increased. There have been engagements with various political parties on the importance of ensuring that political differences do not affect the Municipality's ability to deliver services to the people of Nelson Mandela Bay.
On the USDG, the Municipality submitted a detailed expenditure plan as per the USDG and there is a 100% projected budget spend. On the capacity to spend, the first huddle is getting the USDG that is due to NMBM. There is the capacity to spend, which should be clear by the end of March.
The main area we need to be improving on is planning. We are still falling short in terms of procurement and long-term planning. This has an impact on the quality of business plans as well as some of the projects highlighted in business plans are not in a state of readiness for implementation. Therefore, going forward, provinces must indicate whether they are ready to hit the ground running. Beyond this, a decision has been made that we are not going to be issuing any conditional approvals of business plans. This has not served us well in the past so we need to approve the business plans beforehand so that they are ready for implementation in the next financial year. On war rooms, KwaZulu-Natal is being used as a case study because they have also responded very well and this is being rolled out in the rest of the provinces. This will bring uniformity in how municipalities respond to certain issues.
The delegation from the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality highlighted that all questions had been answered by the other municipalities.
On the PIE Act, Buffalo City Municipality also recommends a longer period than the 48 hours stipulated in the PIE Act because of the large geographic areas. Also, the number of invasions is sporadic, making it hard for the city to manage with limited resources.
The land invasion in Buffalo City Municipality is more in the outlying areas than in the inner city. The city is internally developed, and the land vulnerable to invasions is outlying land. The Municipality is benchmarking the buying of land to respond to land invasion.
The Department of Human Settlements indicated that at face value, the presentation by the NMBM shows that the Municipality is doing well as there is no movement on the projects. However, when drilling down on the various projects of the Municipality, there is a clear realisation that there are stagnant projects and departments. That is the main reason there seems to be a discrepancy between what the Municipality is reporting versus the report of the department.
Ms Powell directed her question to the eThekwini City Manager. The presentation noted that R254 million on USDG was set aside for water services. She noted that there was an irregularity in terms of awarding a tender for water tankers. She asked the City Manager whether eThekwini is currently using water tankers. If so, who do they belong to? How is eThekwini making sure people receive water given the ongoing court processes? Are water tankers currently operating and if so, which tankers? How have they gotten around the court proceedings?
The City manager said, yes, the municipality does provide water to the people of eThekwini, through a Section 36 contract. He could not remember the names of the suppliers as the municipality deals with over 2000 projects so he would not know all of them. However, a response can be provided in writing.
In her closing remarks, the acting Director-General of the Department of Human Settlements, Ms Sindisiwe Ngxongo, thanked the Committee for the invitation. She highlighted that the issue of the expropriation of the land is an issue of the Minister and there already are engagements with various stakeholders. However, the Department will provide more detail on the land being looked to settle people, which will be in writing.
The meeting was adjourned.
Semenya, Ms MR
Khumalo, Dr NV
Makesini, Ms M
Malematja, Mr C N
Powell, Ms EL
Sihlwayi, Ms NN
Tseki, Mr MA
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