The virtual meeting held by the Portfolio Committee of Human Settlements was to receive feedback on the progress made by the Northern Cape province, the North West province, and the Eastern Cape province on the recommendations given by the Committee during oversight visits.
The issues raised by the Members were the slow progress on the issuance of title deeds, the slow progress in the termination of contracts with contractors, the eradication of asbestos, and the illegal occupation of unassigned housing.
While the Northern Cape and the North West province reported some sufficient progress, the Eastern Cape, on the other hand, did not report exceptional progress and this feedback was met with disappointment from the Committee. The measures put in place to increase the issuance of title deeds included the inception of the “Title Deeds Fridays” initiative, which was implemented across provinces, and this resulted in numerous title deeds being issued.
Members posed questions about the beneficiary list, and these were regarding the verification processes, the accessibility of such lists, and how allocation of housing occurred.
The meeting commenced with an observation of a moment of silence or prayer by the Members and all those in attendance.
The Chairperson indicated that the purpose of the meeting was to hear the progress made by the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, and the North West provinces since the Portfolio Committee conducted oversight visits during 2022 and 2023. Members of the Executive Council (MECs) from the mentioned provinces provided the Committee with responses to the issues raised.
Mr Bently Vass, Northern Cape MEC: Human Settlements, acknowledged some of the main issues such as the vandalising of building sites, the absence of housing for military veterans, and the delayed housing distribution.
He handed over to Mr Bafedile Lenkoe, Head of Department (HOD), Northern Cape Department of Human Settlements, to take the Committee through the presentation.
Briefing by the Northern Cape: Progress Report
Mr Lenkoe acknowledged the progress made in the province and proceeded with the presentation which touched on the issues brought up by the Portfolio Committee during their visit alongside the progress and measures put in place to ensure the resolution of such issues.
These issues included the following;
- A high number of vacancies in the Northern Cape Department of Human Settlements
- The lack of the use of alternative building technology
- The security of tenures
- The verification of beneficiaries
- Title deeds
- Social and renting housing programme
- The lack of adequate housing for military veterans
The following were listed as responses to the highlighted issues.
- There have been 96 new appointees hired to fill the vacancies since the moratorium was lifted on hiring new staff members.
- Title Deeds Fridays’ have been introduced as an initiative to distribute a certain amount of title deeds weekly.
- A panel of conveyancers has been appointed to expedite verification processes and the issuing of title deeds.
- Tenant recruitment policies and procedures have been revised.
- The Department is in the process of appointing and procuring contractors to build 19 military housing units between Upington and Lerato Park.
Issues remained in the adoption of alternative building technology due to the difficulty in getting both communities and funders on board. This was a result of a more traditional understanding of housing and a lack of awareness of the reliability of alternative building technology and the Department suggested a conscientisation process across communities. Further, there is notable difficulty in the verification process of beneficiaries, and this results from an array of issues, including the slow verification and signing of documents by municipalities, and the delays in the release of land by Public Works and Rural Development. Far fewer houses are also being delivered than the targets due to large infrastructural constraints.
See attached for full presentation
Briefing by the Eastern Cape
Mr Edmond Venn, HOD, Eastern Cape Department of Human Settlements, took the Committee through the presentation. Some of the issues raised by the Portfolio Committee during the oversight visits to the Eastern Cape included the following;
- The vandalism of new housing projects
- The lack of sufficient geo-tech studies before the construction of new housing developments
- Title deeds do not include the conditions of ownership and the contact numbers for housing complaints.
- Consequence management for those who lost Mother Title Deeds
- The slow progress in the eradication of asbestos
- The lack of consequence management for poorly performing contractors
- Slow procurement processes throughout the province
The Department of the Eastern Cape indicated that plans have been made to ensure the implementation of recommendations into everyday practice. In discussing the issue of illegal occupants residing in housing that is yet to be allocated to rightful owners, a compromise was reached to allow such individuals to be moved to shelters temporarily. The aid of law enforcement and a court order were used to ensure the swift eradication of this issue.
See attached for full presentation
Briefing by North West: Progress Report
Mr Nono Maloyi, North West MEC: Human Settlements, introduced Ms Kgomotso Mahlobo, HOD, North West Department of Human Settlements, and handed over to her to guide Members of the Committee through the presentation. Issues that the Committee raised were listed alongside the progress made by the Department since the oversight visit in March 2023. These included the following;
- Challenges with the establishment of townships and the issuing of title deeds
- The Department appointed more conveyancers who have assisted in opening township registers and registering title deeds to deserving beneficiaries.
- Management of Communal Residential Units.
- The Department is in the process of hiring a service provider to manage these units.
- The service provider should be well-versed in real estate.
- Lack of a strategy to effectively deal with land invasions.
- This has been achieved.
- The urgent need to eradicate mud houses and asbestos roofing.
- The current budget does not allow for the eradication of mud houses.
- The National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) has been appointed to identify the number of houses with asbestos roofing, and a report will be provided by month end.
Two cases that were left unresolved during the oversight visit were addressed, with both involving disabled persons who were either allocated incorrect housing or their houses were left unfinished. The status of both cases was that they had been resolved.
The Committee recommended the inclusion of women, local businesses, youth, and community members in the development and building processes, and a large portion of the budget has been reassigned to take these issues into account in the following financial year.
See attached for full presentation
Mr A Tseki (ANC) thanked the North West province for their presentation and commented on the two Eastern Cape cases brought to the Portfolio Committee during the oversight visits. He indicated that the names of the two individuals must be included in the list of names that will be receiving housing before the end of the year.
Addressing the issue of the reported 300 houses that illegal occupants have invaded, he acknowledged that local ward councillors and municipalities should take part in identifying such issues and dealing with them before allowing them to reach the stage of requiring a court order. He expressed his disappointment in the failure of the Eastern Cape Department to effectively apply consequence management.
Adv M Masutha (ANC) mentioned that in the Eastern Cape, the issue of the quality of applicants for housing was raised in the presentation and it was implied that young people would not qualify for housing in the case that they are not employed in the area. He requested clarity on whether there was a national list of applicants.
He acknowledged that some of the first applicants, dating back to 1994, have yet to receive housing, and these applicants would not likely be young. He agreed that young people should not be considered a high priority considering the large backlog and the number of disabled and elderly applicants and added that the Department would be able to monitor trends at a national level.
He requested clarity on how the various departments check whether the applicants that date far back are still alive and whether their socio-economic circumstances have changed at the national level.
Dr N Khumalo (DA) asked whether the lease agreements include consequences for a breach of contractual agreements, and, if so, why these are not being enforced. She stated this was in reference to the reported cases of non-paying tenants in the Northern Cape.
In reference to the North West province, she noted the progress made in the issuance of title deeds. She asked if the province was predicting that it would reach its annual target, and if there have been arrangements made for the residents residing in housing that had been flagged as having asbestos roofs. She noted the time it has taken to resolve the issue of non-performing contractors, as it was stated that little progress had been made and indicated that the slow progress was unacceptable.
Referring to the Eastern Cape province, Dr Khumalo agreed with Adv Masutha and requested clarity on how the Department handles the beneficiary list, and whether this list is publicly available. She also asked the Department for a timeframe for the eradication of asbestos.
Regarding the issue of illegal occupants and vandalism, she asked if law enforcement was involved in eradicating the issue, whether internal units had been formed to combat construction mafias, and the precautionary measures that have been put in place.
Mr C Malematja (ANC) welcomed the three presentations given and acknowledged the implementation of the “Title Deeds Fridays” initiative. He requested that each department clarify when the project was initiated, and how many title deeds have been issued since the initiative's inception.
Highlighting the presentation given by the Northern Cape province, he noted that during the oversight visit, the Committee witnessed negligence occurring within some of the available rental housing.
He applauded the province for filling 96 houses and asked how many of these 96 houses have assisted those living with disabilities.
Ms N Sihlwayi (ANC) welcomed all the members of the various departments. She first addressed the North West province and noted that the presentation established that 25 conveyancers had been appointed for township establishment. She asked what the role of the conveyancers was and how they navigated their work alongside town planners. She took note of the slow progress of the strategy implementation for Community Residential Units (CRUs) and requested a timeline for the finalisation of this strategy.
She expressed her disappointment at the answer given by the North West province in response to the issue of land invasion, stated that the issue is not just an issue to be handed to the municipalities, and said that both the provincial and national government departments should partake in supporting municipalities. She requested that the province respond to her.
The work done to eradicate asbestos and mud houses was welcomed and applauded. Ms Sihlwayi noted that there would have been a government budget given to departments to eradicate these two issues. She asked how much of the budget had been used.
In registering beneficiaries, she encouraged the departments to contribute to solving this issue and not to rely only on problem-solving at the national level. She said that the beneficiary list has been a continuous issue since 1994, acknowledged that the presentation addressed this issue, and claimed that contractors were tasked with identifying beneficiaries. She indicated that this should not be the job of the contractors, considering that they are driven by personal interests and profits. She also emphasised that the Department should track beneficiaries and compile a report on those who have not taken up occupation in their designated housing. Once this process has concluded, houses could swiftly be reallocated and would not remain open to illegal occupants and vandalism.
Ms M Makesini (EFF) addressed the North West province and highlighted a case of an elderly lady awaiting housing. She stated that the report claimed that this woman received housing, yet her family members have contacted the Committee and reported that she is still waiting for housing. She asked the Department to verify the report. She stated that the second case presented to the Committee within the North West province was that of a lady living with a disability who was given the wrong housing. She expressed her anger at the Department for refusing to take responsibility for the woman and reallocating her to a new, more appropriate house.
Adv Masutha acknowledged that title deeds can only be distributed in established township areas. He further noted that not all townships have been established, and some live under communal rule, where individual titles are not established. He asked if people in rural areas are afforded the same privileges as those living in established townships, and what work is being done to ensure service delivery and rural development in these areas. He asked about the policy that underpins the larger development of land ownership.
The Chairperson reminded the MEC of the Eastern Cape of the case of a woman with a disability and said that the Committee had given the Department 30 days to conclude the case. She asked about the progress made in this regard.
She said that the Committee visited the project in Buffalo City earlier in the year, and Members noted that the project had not been completed and that parts of the development were vandalised. The mayor of that area announced that a contractor would be appointed to complete the project within a month, however, the presentation indicated that the project had not been expedited as promised. She requested a response on why this has not been concluded at this point.
The Chairperson said that the Eastern Cape province informed the Committee that a resolution must be passed at the municipal level on the beneficiary list as changes at the ward level occur and that these changes would not be disruptive to the beneficiary list. She expressed her disappointment at the lack of progress since the Committee’s visit.
She welcomed the introduction of the “Title Deed Fridays” but said that the initiative must be assessed regularly to evaluate its success.
She indicated that the Committee received disturbing reports of a ward councillor who stopped construction and removed windows and doors in protest of the slow progress of the completion of housing. After this event, it was reported that construction was halted completely. She inquired how the ward councillor acquired such authority as he had not engaged the Department or used the right channels. She asked who would be held liable for paying for the damage incurred, referenced other municipal responses to the illegal conduct of ward councilors, and suggested that the Department criminally charge the individual.
The Chairperson echoed the concerns Ms Makesini raised on conflicting information on the lack of housing provided for the woman living with a disability. She stated that it seems that some projects had been initiated only recently and these were motivated by the meeting called by the Portfolio Committee.
Mr Lenkoe responded that the beneficiary list within the Northern Cape province has been handled as a guiding document for construction processes and houses are assigned to beneficiaries before projects commence. He confirmed that those waiting for longer than ten years for housing, those living with disabilities, and the elderly were prioritised.
In response to Adv Masutha, Mr Lenkoe clarified that the Department does consult and work closely with traditional leaders in rural areas and assured the Committee that no title deeds are issued without the approval of the traditional leaders’ council.
He addressed issues raised on the rental stock. He said disagreements and the break of contractual obligations occur between the tenants and landlords, consisting of appointed management units assembled within each rental housing development. He admitted that the issue of rental stocks in Sol Plaatje municipality and Roodepoort was the failure of management units to provide regular maintenance and the Department has since appointed the South Africa Swedish International Housing Company NPC (SASIHC) as the organisation to manage tenants and maintenance within the Roodepoort area.
He confirmed that 3406 title deeds have been issued and only recently, 30 extra title deeds were issued. He noted that the “Title Deeds Fridays” initiative has been successful in the Northern Cape province.
In reference to questions about military veterans, he said there was confirmation that the list is constantly increasing, which is against the trends foreseen by the Department. He assured the Committee that extensive background checks are done using the force number of applicants for housing.
Regarding Mr Malematja's clarity-seeking question on the number of houses distributed, he told the Committee that only one of these houses had been assigned to those with specific needs. The normal rate for the distribution of housing, particularly to those with disabilities, has been 2%, which has increased to 3% more recently. However, he admitted that this still leaves space for improvement.
He agreed with the comments made by Ms Sihlwayi on the need for the Department, municipalities, and wards to work closely together.
Mr Lenkoe assured the Chairperson that constant engagements on the facilitation of development in mining towns are occurring to ensure that the development processes are driven by input and close collaboration with the communities themselves.
Ms Siphokazi Lusithi, Eastern Cape MEC: Human Settlements, replied to the concerns of the Committee. She acknowledged the two cases raised by Mr Tseki and asked him to send the details to the Department so that feedback could be sent to the Committee.
In response to the issue of land invasions, she confirmed that meetings are consistently occurring between the Department, communities, municipalities, and other stakeholders to find solutions for this issue. A court order has been granted, and the Department has been approaching families willing to relocate voluntarily and offering them alternative accommodation. She stated that this also occurs in the case of housing identified as having asbestos roofing.
MEC Lusithi confirmed that there are examples of consequence management implementations such as in the case of the former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) which resulted in the implicated person being suspended and consequently removed from his position. She mentioned that contractors that have been flagged as poorly performing have not been blacklisted, but the process of contract termination has been occurring. The process of terminating contracts is being looked into to ensure an expedited process. She added that this will include how to include consequence management in these processes.
She indicated that the Department implemented the “Title Deeds Fridays” initiative in October of 2023 and a total of 1 256 title deeds had been issued at the midpoint of 2023. After this initiative began, the title deeds were issued between 23 October and have risen to 1 423.
She said that the SHS system, which was tasked with registering applicants to be placed on the beneficiary list, remains a national problem and that contractors have only been tasked with referring to the beneficiary list on a case-by-case basis specifically related to the development project.
She said that the Eastern Cape Department has passed a resolution to ensure that beneficiary lists are adopted and dealt with by individual municipalities, as well as the verification of such, which has successfully relieved the Department of this task and fast-tracked these processes. She indicated that a new framework needed to be adopted by councils which would allow the Department to terminate contracts with contractors more swiftly and without causing disturbance.
She confirmed that the issue of the construction mafia was being dealt with at the national level. She stated that such occurrences needed to be dealt with criminally in collaboration with various spheres of governance.
MEC Lusithi confirmed that the beneficiary raised by Ms Makesini, living with a disability, has been moved to more appropriate housing.
In Buffalo City, she mentioned that progress was made in delivering bulk infrastructure and that some areas sit at 90% and others at 80% as indicated by reports received. Ms Lusithi was confident that this would be concluded by the end of the year.
She said that in the Westbank, illegal invaders remain the largest issue, and municipalities needed to be engaged to give notices to the residents. She assured the Committee that these processes were well underway. She mentioned that the Eastern Cape Department worked to collaborate closely with the local spheres of government, ward leaders, and municipalities.
Mr Venn answered the question concerning how the Department secures tenure in rural spaces and said that the policy gives guidelines, and once land has been identified and confirmed by the local traditional leaders and chiefs, it is then handed over to the Department.
MEC Maloyi provided clarity on the number of title deeds issued thus far and said that the North-West province implemented the “Title Deeds Fridays” initiative in July of 2023 and thus far, 5 842 title deeds have been issued, and a further 256 title deeds will be issued as of Friday 17 November. He said although the MEC had confirmed that he was confident that this target would be exceeded, the Department is not sure that the target will be reached.
He mentioned that contractors who have failed to perform have had their contracts terminated, some have been replaced and the scope of the performing contractors has been increased to allow them to take over some projects. This has provided the North-West province with a much smoother and easier transition with few interruptions. Mr Maloyi confirmed that all the sites currently have contractors on site.
During the oversight visit, he assured the Committee that the houses identified as requiring urgent attention due to bad maintenance or unfinished projects were completed as of 29 September 2023. Furthermore, the Department embarked on its own identification project to establish a list of housing, that the Committee was not privy to, which required maintenance or completion. He confirmed that the issue of the construction mafia is being dealt with through criminal procedures and community meetings are held to keep atop some of the current rising issues.
He answered the concerns raised by Ms Sihlwayi on the land invasions and confirmed that the agents responsible for identifying land invasions lie with the municipalities and ward councillors. Thereafter, the Department can work closely with these stakeholders to resolve the issues together.
He informed the Committee that there are over 37 000 mud houses across the province of the North West and calculations have identified a need for R 6 billion to deal with this issue, and this is money that is not able to be sourced easily. Interactions have been occurring with contractors to establish whether under current contracts a certain number of mud houses can be eradicated.
MEC Maloyi said that the beneficiary list was formerly handled by contractors and that this was an anomaly and agreed that under normal circumstances, this cannot be delegated to contractors. He assured the Committee that there are efforts underway to ensure that the beneficiary list is available to municipalities, the Department, and even at the ward level.
The Chairperson requested that unanswered questions be provided in writing.
She thanked the members of the Department for their responses and requested that the meeting be closed as some Members are required to travel to Parliament for the National Assembly Plenary.
[The meeting was adjourned.]
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