Throughout the Eastern Cape, beneficiaries have been forced to stand by and watch as houses that they have been waiting decades for stand empty and are vandalised, while the Department shifts the blame.
In response to a parliamentary question, Human Settlements MEC, Mulungisi Mvoko, has stated that the Department refuses to spend money on repairing any houses that have been vandalised due to non-occupation. Instead, Mvoko insists that it is the contractor’s responsibility to safeguard houses until the handover stage.
The Department wants to wash their hands of the issue of vandalism and illegal occupation. This despite the fact that it has shown an inability to ensure that the rightful beneficiaries occupy their homes timeously. Instead, these houses stand vacant, becoming targets for criminal elements.
In November 2017, the DA uncovered that 258 government subsidized houses were unoccupied in the province. Jamestown in Walter Sisulu Municipality reported 25 unoccupied houses since 2009 and Elundini Municipality reported 79 unoccupied houses which have stood vacant for the past 8 years. The main culprit was the Potsdam Project in Buffalo City Metro Municipality with 154 unoccupied houses which stood vacant since 2013.
What the MEC intends to do, is to offload a Departmental competency to the private contractors.
Ensuring that correct beneficiaries receive access to their houses and their title deeds, is a direct responsibility of the Department and the corresponding municipalities. The Democratic Alliance will not allow the government officials to pass the buck any longer.
Housing registry lists are in disarray, with disputes leading to houses that have been built standing empty for years, becoming targets for vandalism and looting. Delayed payment results in contractors abandoning sites. When this happens, houses are stripped of materials.
Mvoko has indicated that the Department has established the Beneficiary Correct Occupation (BCO) to ensure that correct beneficiaries are placed in newly completed houses.
However, he has failed to provide any insight into the function of the BCO, how much budget has been allocated to it, nor did he articulate what would happen to those houses already vandalised as well as those that have been found to be occupied illegally.
The DA would like to know who will be held responsible for the houses that have already been vandalised. The Department cannot simply shrug their shoulders and pass the buck to contractors. Beneficiaries should also not be financially responsible for having to repair damage to their homes.
I have written to the MEC to outline the exact function of the BCO as well as exactly how it intends to mitigate vandalism and illegal occupation in future. Furthermore, the Department must explain who will be held responsible for houses that have been unoccupied for several years and subject to rampant vandalism.
The Democratic Alliance is committed to ensuring that South Africans know the dignity of owning their own home. We will continue to fight to ensure that vandalism and criminal behaviour do not prevent people from accessing their homes.