Human Settlements 2019/20 budget: underspending=incompetent

Issued by Kate Lorimer –
26 Jul 2019 in Press Statements

Madam Speaker, it seems that the Department of Human Settlements is at least, consistent. Since I was last in this portfolio from 2005-2009, it has consistently been a poor performer. Not much has changed, other than the MEC’s who have all been consistently incapable of fixing the mess.

There is consistently inaccurate target setting. Delivery targets are either far too low or far too high.  They speak to a lack of understanding of the intricacies of issues affecting delivery and to a hit and miss budgeting approach. There is no way these targets can be supported by a credible budget process.

The consistent excuses made by the department range from the invasion of houses, lack of bulk infrastructure connections, interference from Business fora, supply chain management delays, non-enrolment with the NHBRC. All point to a substantial lack of control, monitoring and evaluation around the planning and implementation of developments.  In other words, it is not the fault of the department but of everybody else.

The department is quick to lay the blame at the door of municipalities for not spending their allocated grants yet are consistently incapable of responding timeously to issues raised thereby placing municipalities in an untenable position. Human Settlements requires co-operation between the province and the municipalities and targeting DA municipalities for political reasons does not serve the people of Gauteng.  It is time to be professional, not petty and ensure that housing developments are facilitated and expedited.

In 2017, the department stated there were 101 incomplete housing developments in Gauteng, in March 2018, they denied this, who knows what the current situation is.  The MEC is aware I visited Winnie Mandela in Tembisa a couple of weeks ago.  The RDP houses were started in 2016 and are not yet complete.  What happened? Where was the departmental oversight? In committee the MEC says they will be completed but money is the problem.  Perhaps if the money was properly managed in the first place and contractors appointed who were able to do the job, the beneficiaries would not be in the position they are now. Helpless and homeless in the face of incompetence.

In Katlehong at the corner of Kgotso and Mercury there are lots of toilets with solar water heaters built in the middle of the veld.  They have been there over a year.  No houses, no delineated plots and an informal settlement nearby.  What is going on? Which excuse applies?

Somebody needs to start making some hard choices if the department is to come right.  Criminal charges must be laid against business fora, the SAPS must be engaged with to ensure arrests take place and security must be provided to targeted contractors.  Officials responsible for ensuring contracts, supply chain management processes and monitoring and evaluation must be held to account through disciplinary action when things go awry.  Provincial processes must be streamlined and inter-governmental relationships with municipalities should no longer be confrontational but rather co-operative.

Urgent court orders must be obtained against illegal invaders of houses and they must be removed and replaced with legal occupants who are given title deeds.  And on that subject, no title deeds were handed over in the last year.  The excuse, unregistered townships and a lack of approved beneficiaries.  Why are they unregistered?  Which part of the process is a problem in each case?  Why no identified beneficiaries?  Is this because the housing list is as non-existent or as incomprehensible as it was in 2005?

I was interested to hear the Premier in his State of the Province address talk about “a fresh approach” being Rapid Land Release.  Rapid land release has been around since the early 2000’s and was a policy implemented by the then Department of Land Affairs together with the department of Housing.  The DA has for years been advocating the approach of rapidly delivering serviced sites and title deeds rather than building inferior top structures that take forever to materialise. This view was based on the anecdotal feedback from residents of Gauteng on numerous oversite visits to incomplete housing developments and informal settlements.

We believe people are the best judge of what is best for them – they don’t need to wait forever for a government bureaucrat to deliver a one size fits all product and steal money along the way.  

The urban renewal projects in Alexandra, Evaton, Bekkersdal, Kliptown and Winterveldt have been a continual indictment of poor performance, bureaucratic bungling and corruption.  Money is unaccounted for and in the case of Evaton, the department is unable to give us the correct figure for what has been spent thus far. Figures given by different MECs contradict each other and those from the Auditor General.

As the ANC, you have nothing to be proud of as far as housing delivery is concerned.  You made unrealistic promises to poor South Africans and have consistently failed them.  Title deeds and property ownership bring economic bargaining power that is otherwise unavailable to poor South Africans.  It is a critical tool to building an inclusive society in which all can participate.

This department is an unmitigated disaster and you owe it to the people of Gauteng who have waited and waited and waited to get homes and title deeds, to declare an emergency and fix the mess.