Speech notes: Reaction to SOPA 2020 by Sanele Magaqa, MPL

Issued by Sanele Magaqa, MPL
Shadow MEC for Human Settlements

Integrated human settlements and the failure to provide basic services

The Hon Speaker

The Hon Premier

Members of the House

The people in the Eastern Cape waited with full of hope and anticipation to listen to the Premier to deliver his state of the province address. They did this because they believed that the Premier will provide tangible solutions in the gloomy economic situation and hardships they feel. They did this yearning for a government that will this time offer concrete, effective and efficient programs.

Unfortunately the speech of the Premier did not live up to the expectation especially when dealing with the provision of decent housing and basic services. Just a case in point, the Premier just had 1 small paragraph in his speech dedicated to decent human settlements.

Hon Speaker, whilst the premier is promising to build 52 251 houses in the term of his government and 8123 for 2020/2021 financial year, let me properly dissect for the Premier what are the challenges facing human settlements in his government and what constitutes solutions to those problems.

As I have cited recently The Eastern Cape Department of Human Settlements has spent almost R582 million on 25 unfinished or abandoned housing projects. Of the 9 413 planned units to be constructed in these 25 projects, only 4 243 were actually built. This mean that the department has spent this staggering amount without anything to show for it.

What is shocking is that the reasons given for this state of affairs are so elementary and have been there since the advent of democracy. These range from contracts expiring, to problems with beneficiary management issues, underperformance of contractors, a lack of proper planning and the unavailability of bulk infrastructure. What must the people of the province expect to do if these problems are persistent?

Hon Premier, in one instance a contractor by the name of Fitzcape was contracted to build 350 units at the Post St Johns-Ntafufu projects in 2014, but only 204 units were constructed. The contractor was paid R31, 4 million rand before its contract was terminated due to underperformance.

The DA believes that the department shows an inability to properly research the financial needs of each project as well as a lack of necessary oversight mechanisms for the various stages of the building process.

As the DA we have long called for the department and all municipalities to have project management capacity to monitor all housing developments in the province. This must also be coupled with proper and efficient town planning. There is a need to have continuous inspections of all projects to ensure that contractors adhere to building standards.

Hon Premier, there must be consequence management for all contractors who abandon projects without finalising them. All these contractors need to be blacklisted. A sound beneficiary management process will enable proper planning of projects and will enable projects to be finished. I implore your government to priorities the finalisation of all these projects to deal with the 660 000 housing backlog in the province.

Hon Premier, your government is spending a lot of money rectifying houses that are defective instead of putting a lot of focus on building houses. Just in 2017/2018 a whopping R174 million was spent in this regard. In 2018/2019 a staggering R193 million was spent on the rectification program whilst the department of human settlements has a shrinking budget dedicated for housing development.

In your maiden state of the province address Premier you said “We cannot pay for the construction of RDP houses today, and then come back 3 months down the line to pay another contractor to fix problems in the same RDP Houses”

Honorable Premier it seems the call you made in your maiden speech has not been adhered to because you continue to pay contractors to fix problems of shoddy workmanship.

Hon Premier, there must be a concerted effort to focus on the destitute and vulnerable groups in our society. I have gone to various communities in Mbizana and I have witnessed the plight of many households who desperately need assistance of your government to provide them with decent housing.

A case in point is the one of Gogo Nomabhanoyi Majula, who is 95 years old. She is sick and bedridden. She lives in a 1 room mud hut that is licking water when it rains. She lives in Khanyayo Village in Ward 15 of Mbizana Local Municipality. Through our intervention we have written to the department of human settlements and she has been been approved on the Housing Subsidy System (HSS) on the 19th February 2020. The contractor has visited the site already to do preliminary assessment of the site. The anticipated time will not be later than 31 March 2020.

There are many cases like that of Gogo Nomabhanoyi which needs an urgent intervention from your government.

Hon Premier, I want to bring to your attention the matter of Lesseyton in Queenstown where people are illegally selling a privately owned land that does not belong to them.

This illegal act is done with the blessings of on ANC ward councillor. This matter has been brought to the attention of the municipality on numerous times without any solution to it. I therefore urge you to investigate this matter. The rightful owners of the land wants to know who is selling their land and on whose authority are they doing that. They want to know who is benefitting financially in this illegal act. They also want those who are doing this act to be immediately referred to law enforcement agencies for prosecution.

Hon Premier, there is a need to urgently finalise the beneficiary correct occupation verification in all municipalities to curb the illegal occupation of houses. This will ensure that corrective measures and recommendations are taken to ensure that houses are occupied by correct beneficiaries.

Honorable Premier seemingly everyone including you is talking about “Smart Cities”. Let me remind the Hon Premier that the Qunu City project was a total and dismally failure. The Qunu City project was going to be the first modern city built to honour the legacy of Nelson Mandela.

After spending millions for consultants on the Qunu City project it was ultimately scrapped. Instead of talking about “smart cities” the attention of government must be to fix the decaying infrastructure on the existing towns and cities. The provision of bulk infrastructure by various municipalities is cause for concern.

Hon Premier on the provision of Integrated Human Settlement your government should consider and focus on the following issues:

  • Implementation of innovative solutions to provision of houses.
  • Small Town Revitalisation.
  • Upgrading of informal settlements should be a priority.
  • Focus on Social Housing in all municipalities.
  • Accelerate the issuing of title deeds.
  • Provide capacity to failing municipalities to provide bulk infrastructure.

Hon Premier if your counterpart in Northern Cape Hon Zamani Saul can take a bold step of visiting the DA run Western Cape to learn and share idea, Why don’t you be bold and do the same? You can learn a lot form Western Cape.