The Minister of Human Settlements, Ms Mmamoloko Kubayi, told the National Assembly (NA) that her department has identified and surveyed 2 700 informal settlements across the country, all of which need to be upgraded or relocated. Tabling the department’s Budget Vote for debate in a mini-plenary of the NA yesterday, Ms Kubayi said most informal settlements are located in unsuitable land that can cause various problems for housing.

“I have been engaging communities in informal settlements. First priority is to discourage illegal occupation of land and request municipalities to ensure that we don’t allow anymore illegal occupation of land. This illegal occupation of land denies us an opportunity to plan and implement the human settlements programme properly. Moreover, these are the areas which have been mainly affected by disasters and leads to losses of lives,” the Minister said.

She also announced that she will issue a ministerial directive, in accordance with section 29 of the Housing Development Agency Act, to authorise the agency to drive interventions on upgrading informal settlements and ensure faster turn-around time in providing basic services, to give dignity and comply with human rights in our communities.

The Minister said: “It has been heart-breaking to see the conditions of some of our communities, such Siyakhana informal settlement in Cape Town, Duncan Village in Buffalo City Municipality and Zandspruit in Johannesburg, amongst others. Hence we have to drastically improve this area of work.”

Although the human settlements sector has had many challenges, Ms Kubayi pointed out that technical and policy mechanisms have been put in place to ensure that the sector embarks on more progressive trajectory. The Minister believes that active participation and cooperation between the government, the private sector, communities and organised labour will enable the sector to achieve its goals sooner rather than later.

The backlog in the issuing of title deeds is still an issue, but the department is now partnering with the Banking Association of South Africa and the Youth Employment Services programme, to fast-track their delivery to housing beneficiaries.

After a presidential announcement that state-owned land would be released to be used for human settlements, the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure through the auspices of the Housing Development Agency gave the Human Settlements department 36 land parcels measuring 2 493 hectares. The remainder of the land will be released in phases. This land will be development to benefit the rural housing programme to develop farm worker housing, affordable housing, land tenure upgrading and informal settlements upgrading.

In this financial year, the Human Settlement department will implement affordable housing in mining communities in partnership with mining companies. “To strengthen our partnership with mining companies, we are currently developing a partnership framework between government and mining companies that will guide the joint design and implementation of partnership projects in identified municipalities,” she said.

For the 2022/23 financial year, the department’s budget allocation is R33 billion, of which R18.7 billion is allocated to provincial grants, R11.7 billion for municipal grants and R1.6 billion will be transferred to the department’s entities.

The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements, Ms Machwene Semenya, welcomed the budget and said the housing finance scheme was a game changer for citizens who earn too much to qualify for an RDP house, but also too little to afford a home loan from a bank.

The Minister also announced that to qualify for social housing the income bands for households earning an income between R1 500 to R15 000 were revised to R1 850 to R22 000 gross monthly income. This came into effect on 1 April 2022.

Committee Chairperson Ms Semenya said that the Human Settlement Development Bank that was announced by the President a few years ago must be established urgently. “We support the budget on the basis of its commitment to ensuring our people have access to social housing. We want to ensure that the department achieves its planned programmes for this financial year and we will hold the department accountable for this budget,” she said.

Opposition parties in the NA raised concerns about corruption in the housing waiting list, poorly built houses and delays in the issuing of title deeds to housing beneficiaries. Democratic Alliance Member of Parliament Ms Ntombi Khumalo alleged that in some parts of the country government officials have occupied houses that were built to benefit the poor. “We need to see corruption coming to an end in the allocation of houses. Provision of human settlements is one of the important tools to end poverty in our country,” said Ms Khumalo.

The Economic Freedom Fighters said the budget is a gross underestimate of the money needed to address the problem of homelessness in the country. The EFF’s Member of the NA, Ms Noluvuyo Tafeni, urged the government to stop evicting people in informal settlements. “It is not a crime to be poor; those people did not choose to be homeless,” she said.

Sakhile Mokoena
11 May 2022