The Department of Human Settlements in Gauteng is in perpetual decline.
Systemic lack of capacitation, under performance and most noticeably, insignificant political or operational accountability has left the department rudderless and floundering.
This scenario has manifested itself in institutionalized under spending, underreporting and the failure to complete projects.
Regular changes in middle and senior management prevents the department from making any sustainable progress in delivering its core mandate as directed in sections 10 and 26 of the Constitution.
The introduction of the promised turnaround strategy has little chance of succeeding whilst the MEC fails to adequately identify the issues and hold officials accountable.
The health of the department has steadily weakened since 2014. Its greatest ill being its inability to spend its grants and budget allocations resulting in the return of nearly R2 billion to the National Treasury in the last 3 years.
Each year since 2014, I have had the opportunity to test the performance of the Gauteng Human Settlements Department under the leadership of successive MECs; this by measuring such performance against the constitutional obligations which the department needs to comply with and to utilize previous year’s performance as a yardstick for improvement and success.
I regret to inform this House that the department has been in accelerated decline for the last 7 years, with little indication that positive change is imminent.
One of the Gauteng department’s primary goals is “to promote and facilitate the provision of adequate housing in the province”.
It is very apparent from the annual report that the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements has no effective and workable plan; to ascertain what the problems are that exist, to measure the extent of the intervention necessary to put in place rectification and other necessary measures to deal with the challenges, to effectively prioritize and utilize the funds available in a responsible manner or to implement and monitor the intended rectification programmes.
Although more than 1.5 million homes have been provided since 1994, 2 million are still required and the number of informal settlements have more than doubled since 1996 with the number now in excess of 1000 in Gauteng.
On an overall assessment, the following challenges preventing service delivery are evident.
A very unsatisfactory practice has gained momentum in the last few years where projects are left vacant, abandoned and unfinished by contractors resulting in massive plundering and theft, not only of windows and doors, but brick and mortar and foundations, resulting in huge financial losses to the department and the taxpayer. The department has indicated that there are more than 300 unfinished projects in Gauteng. No implementable solution has been received by the department to present a reliable and sustainable plan to solve this problem.
HOSTEL MAINTENANCE AND UPGRADING
The condition of most hostels in the province including the Madala and Women’s hostel in Alexandra, the Wattville hostel in Ekurhuleni, and the Diepkloof hostel in Soweto are examples of complete neglect and an uncaring government. The department continues to fail to carry out any upgrading or maintenance with no accountability for nonperformance. Despite promises being made from year to year, these hostels continue to deteriorate to the point where living conditions are inhumane and degrading.
The state of disrepair continues to perpetuate a humanitarian crisis where conditions are appalling, and sanitation is almost nonexistent.
LEVEL 3 ACCREDIATION
The need for level 3 accreditation to our municipalities in Gauteng remains a priority. For as long as the powers that wield funding in the province remain with the provincial government, our metros in Gauteng remain under capacitated and subject to arbitrary restrictions being imposed on them by the provincial government. This is preventing the roll out of much needed new developments.
The failure to find a solution to the continual strain placed on those living in our informal settlements due to the under capacitated infrastructure caused by massive in–migration and the shortage of funds is indicative of an administration with no plans or ideas of how to provide a solution to this problem.
IN SITU UPGRADING/ FORMALIZATION
Although the MEC has indicated on more than one occasion the department’s intention to introduce a process of the formalization of Informal Settlements, no tangible progress has been made with in situ upgrading which is a pre-cursor to formalization. The failure to find a solution to this challenge will perpetuate the increase of informal settlements.
With Covid-19 forced upon us, it was hoped that the intended de-densification programme would introduce a period of relaxation of overcrowding and better living conditions. Regrettably, very little has transpired with the TRA programme or any sustainable relocation of home dwellers.
In 2014 the introduction of Mega Projects by the Premier was foreseen as a panacea towards the reduction of the huge backlog in housing delivery by the department and the housing solution for the future. None of the intended targets have been achieved.
THE RAPID LAND RELEASE PROGRAMME
This is a further inability of the department to deliver its targeted handing over of serviced stands to beneficiaries due to failures in planning and alleged operational reasons.
ILLEGAL LAND INVASIONS
Despite war being declared by the Premier and the MEC against land invasions, no effective plan has been found to deal with and prevent the invasions or with the provision of housing for the home seekers themselves. The inability to deal with this issue will perpetuate civil unrest and accelerated land grabs,
The systemic underspending by the department in almost all projects is a stark indication of how dysfunctional the department is. The fact that there is no operational accountability for this betrayal to our citizens is most telling.
There is also uncertainty regarding the late allocation of R100m to the Human Settlements budget without the necessary explanation being given. We await more particulars in this regard.
SLOW DELIVERY OF TITLE DEEDS
The inability of the provincial government to accelerate the delivery of long-awaited title deeds continues to fuel dissatisfaction and frustration in areas where security of tenure was promised. Very little progress has been made in accelerating this process.
ALEXANDRA RENEWAL PROJECT AND OTHER RENEWAL PROJECTS
Progress with the delivery of improved living conditions in the Urban Renewal Projects for the residents in Bekkersdal, Winterveld and Alexandra remains slow and erratic.
Regarding Alexandra, I have on three occasions in this House, appealed to the Premier to find a solution to resolving the impasse created by the court interdict (in place since 2005) and the failure to implement the Statement of Intent due to the inability to procure the required funding. This project, once the intended example of how we as a nation would uplift the living conditions of our poorest citizens, has become a huge disappointment and embarrassment. Hon. Premier and MEC, surely you can do better?
In a recent Human Settlements committee workshop, the MEC was challenged to indicate how the turnaround strategy with regard to the completion of projects would be implemented. The MEC accepted the challenge, and we await his plan together with targets and timelines.
A further point of concern are more than 1.25 million households in Gauteng who live in backyard or secondary dwellings units. It must be an urgent imperative that alternative accommodation be found to relieve the pressure on the crowded living conditions caused by increased in-migration and the difficulties caused by informality of shack and secondary dwellers.
The lack of commitment, discipline, accountability and diligence within the department, particularly with regard to the failure to reach targets, will cause the rapid decline of service delivery to accelerate and place the future viability and credibility of the department at huge risk.
As with previous annual reports, it is lacking in imagination, failing in policy implementation, its priorities confused, and contains little vision or planning.