Given the delays and challenges in providing decent housing and develop sustainable human settlements in South Africa, Human Settlements Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi on November 26 detailed the work her department has done to capacitate its entities to accelerate the delivery of housing and human settlements.
The boards of five of six Department of Human Settlements (DHS) implementing agencies, namely the National Home Builders Registration Council, the Housing Development Agency, the Community Schemes Ombud Service (CSOS), the Property Practitioners Regulatory Authority and the Social Housing Regulatory Authority, were reconstituted with a focus on qualifications, professional skills and experience, she said.
Further, in the coming weeks, the DHS will call for nominations of members of the public willing to serve on the National Housing Finance Corporation board, which is in the process of becoming a Human Settlements bank.
“This administration has made a commitment to pay special attention to the creation of a capable State, which requires us to bring in technically capable people to serve in government institutions. We have selected a highly capable group of individuals to serve on our boards,” the Minister noted.
The newly appointed chairpersons and the respective boards were expected to focus on bringing stability to the entities by recruiting and deploying capable people to run the administration of these entities and there must be no compromise on skills requirements, especially specialised technical skills, she said.
“The entities for which the boards are accounting authorities should achieve and maintain a clean administration during your term of office and must deal decisively with all manner of malfeasance, wrongdoing and corruption perpetrated within your respective entities.
“The entities under your leadership shall strive to deliver services to the South African citizens with speed, efficiency, but above all, with strict adherence to the Batho Pele principles. I expect you to speedily address all outstanding matters which are critical to restoring the reputations and functioning of the entities that you now lead,” she emphasised.
The DHS and its implementing agencies' mission is, “to restore dignity to South Africans through the provision of human settlements with water and sanitation, electricity and close proximity to health, education, economic opportunities and other basic amenities. We are making a commitment that, while we have this responsibility, we shall work relentlessly to ensure that we deliver on our mission.”
Priorities, going forward, include crowding-in private sector investment in human settlements infrastructure, so that housing opportunities for the majority of South Africans can be delivered.
“We will use the Human Settlements bank, once established, to partner with the private sector to increase the quantity and the pace of development of social housing, low-cost rental units and serviced stands. We are making a call for the private sector to come and partner with us to deliver on our human settlements mandate.”
Further, the DHS would digitise the beneficiary list so that it had a more reliable list that could not be manipulated. Government would develop and implement a database system that allowed beneficiaries to track how far they were on the list, which housing project they had been allocated to and track the progress of the project to which they were allocated, she added.
Additionally, the DHS will focus on eradicating incomplete projects. It is quantifying the number and cost of incomplete projects so that it can approach the National Treasury to assist it in exploring funding instruments that will help take these projects to completion.
Since April 2019, there was just over 1.9-million housing units, which form part of incomplete projects. The completion of these projects is important because these incomplete projects have beneficiaries, who according to the beneficiary list, have received their houses.
The DHS will also prioritise eradicating informal settlements. South Africa has an estimated 2 600 informal settlements across the country and the number will undoubtedly increase.
“We are currently quantifying the work that has been done and verifying the data on the targets so that we can design a better approach to this programme to help us advance this work.”
The DHS will also prioritise a stronger focus on delivering quality housing infrastructure, with the intention to turn the NHBRC into a centre of excellence with the help of the incoming board. Such a centre will be instrumental in ensuring that the houses built are of good quality.
Similarly, it would aim to eradicate mud houses in rural areas and the removal of asbestos houses. The DHS would also prioritise the transfer of title deeds, with the aim to accelerate the transfer of title deeds to qualifying beneficiaries of housing programmes, including the pre-1994 backlog that still needed to be addressed. The current pace of transfer was worryingly slow, she said.
To achieve these priorities, the three spheres of government must work together in a coordinated manner, with each sphere discharging its responsibilities without prejudice.
She called for the District Development Model, which advocated for one district, one plan, to be embraced, as it would help to deliver services to South Africa's people efficiently and effectively.
“Let us all remember that the work that we do in this sector is not for the benefit of the leaders or political parties, but for the benefit of South Africans who are mostly poor and destitute. Let us work together to restore the dignity of our people,” she said.
She appealed for housing development projects to not be disrupted and for work on human settlements to be allowed to proceed, and emphasised that the beneficiaries of these projects included orphans, widows, the elderly and people with disabilities, as well as low-income, child-headed and poor households.
“Government has made many breakthroughs and achieved much, but the sector still has many challenges, but, with the necessary capacity, courage, honesty, innovation and multistakeholder engagement, we can make headway.”
Kubayi visited seven provinces to observe progress and challenges with housing and human settlement projects, and engaged with beneficiaries and communities.
Further, the Minister said she was heartbroken by beneficiaries who had been wronged in one way or another and who told her they had lost confidence in the housing delivery system, some of which was owing to collusion or manipulation of beneficiary lists.
“This was a clear message to me that the crimes that are committed in the human settlements sector are not victimless. Access to decent housing remains a major challenge in our country. Disrupting the apartheid spatial development remains a deferred dream.”
The DHS had its work cut out for it and should sharpen its systems to ensure it was properly geared to deliver housing opportunities for the majority of South Africa's people, Kubayi said.