Madam Speaker, 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. Title deeds bring dignity, hope and opportunity to those who have none.
The Department of Human Settlements however brings no hope. Of the 45 253 title deeds that should have been handed over, only 12 144 made their way to the beneficiaries. Mrs. Sara Mbede from extension 31 in Etwatwa, Daveyton has a title deed but someone else is living in her house. Mrs Ottilia Moyo has a title deed for a house in the Far East Bank of Alexandra. She and her family have been chased out by a gang of thugs who do this to numerous legal title holders. How does this happen? It is symptomatic of a fundamental lack of monitoring and oversight taking place in a department that takes no responsibility for the outcomes and by a government that does not uphold the rule of law.
Contractors disappear without completing work, projects run over-schedule and over-budget like the Garunkuwa Unit 10 development where houses that were built by a dodgy contractor now have to be demolished and rebuilt or developments such as Evaton North/Kanana and Tshepiso North Ext 3 in Vereeniging that were abandoned by the contractors. This would not have happened if somebody in the department had done due diligence.
To be able to hand over title deeds one needs to actually build houses and service land. The housing development programme only reached target on one project out of 20, a hit rate of 5%. Every excuse in the book is used to justify this shoddy performance. Late payment of contractors, lapse of signed contracts, land invasions, contractors who have a lack of capacity and the list goes on. None of this would be a problem if the department took responsibility for ensuring the safeguarding of land to be developed, paid people within 30 days, took action against land invaders and rather appointed contractors on merit than on gender, age or disability criteria.
At some point a decision will have to be made to rather use contractors who have a track record of delivering on time and on budget. The department cannot continue to give contracts to small contractors who have little experience and no cash flow. If they do, they will continue to fail in their mandate.
The Auditor General issued a disclaimer as they were unable to find audit evidence for capital work in progress. This is a big flashing red light and shows again there is no monitoring and evaluation of projects.
There are quite evidently no financial controls in place. The Sethokga Community residential units in Tembisa were initiated in 2011/12 with a projected budget of R 86 million. To date R 150 million has been spent on the project and it is still not complete. There is now a stand-off between the department and the residents of Sethokga hostel who were supposed to benefit from the development.
Residents of George Goch hostel and Kersiesdorp in Johannesburg continue to live in an unhealthy, polluted environment due to a lack of ongoing maintenance by the department. It is inhuman to expect anybody to live in these circumstances. If one can’t procure a company to do ongoing maintenance, upskill residents of the hostels and developments to enable them to carry out maintenance where necessary. Think creatively, find new solutions where current ones are not working. Stop doing the same old thing day in and day out and expecting a different result.
The annual report paints a very depressing and worrying picture of a chaotic department that has nobody in control and nobody prepared to be responsible and accountable for its consistent failure to deliver. At this point I am not sure whether the department can be saved.
There seems to be a decided lack of will on the part of the department to conclude disciplinaries against those who are accused of incurring irregular expenditure, of financial misconduct and fraud. Somebody needs to start making some hard choices if the department is to come right.
In the DA, 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.
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.