In light of South Africa’s poor track record in implementing progressive laws aimed at improving the lives of its citizens, residents of Bethlehem in the Free State said they did not feel confident about the prospects of the Housing Consumer Protection Bill

The Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements has now concluded the Free State leg of three public hearings on the Bill, during which residents highlighted this concern. For Mr Sipho Hadebe from Ntabazwe, the difficulty that many people face in South Africa is that laws are passed, but not implemented or enforced. “We are from mainly rural areas with municipalities that don’t have adequate budgets, unlike the metropolitan municipalities which have metro police to enforce the Bill. The Bill must be strengthened to ensure that the enforcement element is enhanced,” Mr Hadebe said.  

 Residents also called for the Bill to ensure that the rights of South African citizens to participant in the industry are protected. This is because home building is not a scarce skill, according to Mr Morgan Moahlodi, and the work is currently dominated by foreign nationals. “The Bill must be explicit that home building is for South African citizens, unless you possess a certain skill that is not prevalent in the country. We can accommodate skills that are scarce and nothing else,” Mr Moahlodi said.

Similarly, the role of inspectors at all levels of government was highlighted by participants in the public hearings as a key consideration for the Bill to strengthen. There were concerns that building inspections remain largely non-existent, especially in rural communities, and this undermines adherence to regulated building standards. To counteract this trend, residents proposed that a clause be included in the Bill to penalise inspectors who fail to execute their duties, as this undermines building standards.

“The Bill must be explicit about a penalty for inspectors that do not do their jobs because they are a major contributor to the non-adherence to the building standards. If we enforce punitive measures against errant inspectors, then we will greatly improve the standard and quality of housing in the country,” Mr Moahlodi suggested.

In supporting the Bill, there was general expression of hope that the Bill will ensure the development of better quality RDP houses, especially in the face of a track record of substandard houses given to beneficiaries.

Malatswa Molepo
16 May 2022