When the premier approached me to take over the responsibility as MEC for Human Settlements – I had mixed emotions about the task at hand especially at a time of the new dawn where there are such high expectations from our people on meeting their basic needs of roof over their heads. Gauteng’s backlog of housing is microcosm of what is happening in the entire country but on the other hand is incomparable with what pressures other provinces face mainly because of internal and external migration. 

This makes the provision of housing a moving target because the more we provide houses to our people the more people migrate into our province. This may become overwhelming because of the limited resources at our disposal. But we are not about to despair. We take over this responsibility where agility and innovation is required to tackle this backlog. But we are also doing so in the middle of the all-important land debate – the land hunger among our people is actually painful and an indictment on our 24 year old democracy

But the ANC led Government has listened and are acting on making this situation right. To that extend, my department is working with colleagues in the Executive Council, municipalities and partners to identify land in the ownership of the state and private sector for a rapid realisation of the Premier and Executive Council’s commitment to ensuring that those who qualify and need serviced land to build their own houses should be given an opportunity to do so. To this extent, I announced in my budget speech recently that a preliminary analysis was undertaken of municipal, provincial and national owned land which includes zoning and land use. The total land identified is 89 000 hectares excluding land still to be identified by municipalities. 

We are getting on with the task given to us by the premier to identify unused land in private hands for expropriation for public interest. The cabinet committee is hard at work to identify suitable portions of land in the five development corridors of Gauteng Province and the Premier will soon make an announcement on the way forward including testing Section 25 of the Constitution on expropriation of land without compensation for public interest. The Department of Human Settlements has budgeted R653 million to service the identified portions of land in the current financial year for the realisation of Rapid Serviced Land Release Programme. This programme will yield ninety eight thousand sites and even more if we reserve others for densification.

In the first hundred days of this responsibility this issue of land has truly been at the top of my agenda. But for us to crack the challenge we need all spheres of government to cooperate. For this reason I have engaged the Executive Mayor of City of Johannesburg to secure the power of attorney that will allow the province to undertake development in the Deep South. The Mayor has in principle agreed and has instructed his officials to issue the POA. This is commendable as the issue of land cannot be used as a political football between contesting political players. This work also requires interagency collaboration within the public sector. In this regard we are working around the clock with the Housing Development Agency (HDA) to secure the power of attorney with the state institutions whose land we have identified to proceed with development in this financial year. 

The Department of Gauteng of Infrastructure Development has received seven Title Deeds with 22 land parcels as a cross border transfer from 6 Mpumalanga to Gauteng provincial Government. The Department has received a request through council resolution from City of Tshwane to transfer these properties to the Municipality to enable the municipality to proclaim and formalize the townships to render adequate human settlements services. These developments give real substance to the process of real restitution of land to the dispossessed has begun in earnest and soon we will all see decisive action to expropriate the land without compensation for public interest and the greater welfare of society.

On the issue of dealing with housing backlog, very little is often reported about the massive developmental interventions through mega city projects. Entire cities are being built to ensure multi use settlements in our province. There are lot of these megacities that are at an advanced stage but equally there are some that have been befallen by slow pace as well as corrupt activities amongst developers and some service providers. I will soon announce measures to clean these up and are working closely with the law enforcement agencies to arrest those found on the wrong side of the law.

At the heart of the contribution of these mega city projects to human settlements is the eradication of informal settlements. Realizing the dehumanising and unhealthy living conditions of our people residing in informal settlements and acknowledging that provision of formal houses for informal settlement residents is not moving fast enough, the department will ensure that while our people wait for formal housing, basic services in informal settlements are improved. To this end, the Department has started with the rollout of the programme to eradicate portable chemical toilets in informal settlements and replacing them with water-borne ablution and sanitation infrastructure designed to provide toilet facilities, showers, laundry and washing spaces in each facility.

Over and above improving the quality of life of our people in these settlements, this programme will create job opportunities for local people, decrease diseases associated with lack of proper water and sanitation and eradicate environmental degradation. An amount of R2, 6 billion has been allocated for this programme and this will yield 9 842 sites and 13 327. The projects are currently piloted in Bekkersdaal and Evaton.

Finally the public needs to know that the issues of human settlements whether be they linked to migration, the provision of RDP houses, the allocation of tittle deeds as well as the revival of areas such as Alexandra – that have fallen to disrepair are at the top of the agenda of the ANC led government as key to restoring the dignity of our people taken away by decades of deprivation and displacement.

 

Uhuru Moilwa is the MEC for CoGTA and Human Settlement in the Gauteng Government.

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