REMARKS BY THE MINISTER OF HUMAN SETTLEMENTS, WATER AND SANITATION LN SISULU AT THE OCCASION OF THE HUMAN SETTLEMENTS PRE-BUDGET VOTE MEDIA BRIEFING, 09 JULY 2019
Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Ms Pam Tshwete MECs of Human Settlements; Chairpersons of the Boards; CEOs of the Human Settlements entities; Director General and senior management of the Department; Members of the media and ladies and gentlemen.
Our vision of Human Settlements policy is as relevant now as it was in 2004 when we began conceptualising it. I don’t need to go into the details of it, it is well known to all of you. However, some of the highlights include the following:
· To urgently reverse entrenched spatial patterns across the country and therefore remove that which continues to divide amongst racial lines.
· To use our housing output to provide the indigent with free housing and support for the low-income group.
· To ensure that our housing developments are close to cities, which is the engine of societies and include amenities for the communities.
· To own and utilise public land for this purpose. With new legislation for land expropriation in the pipeline, we will make sure that we are first takers in the queue for expropriated land.
· We are required to create access to housing finance and for this reason we have established the Human Settlements Development Bank, which I launched before I left this portfolio in 2018, only to find that it is still to be launched.
Unfortunately, we do all of this against a need for belt-tightening. So, as our population grows and our people go out in the streets and protest for housing, our resources diminish. We charge the responsibility of what we have to deliver with less and less. It is for this reason that the expropriation processes are eagerly awaited by us, because it will significantly assist us to offset the pressure. We also have to make sure that we work better and embrace the possibilities offered by new technologies. That will make us more effected and hopefully our response to our communities much more impactful.
In working smarter we are committed to resuscitate our relations with the construction industry. I intend to have an indaba with the construction industry at the earliest opportunity to strategise how we can work better to support our work. I’ll be proposing legislation that will give us the necessary power to restructure the environment in which we work and remove the frustrations of our construction industry.
As I indicated earlier, in 2004 we reframed our approach to housing development and took on the concept of human settlements as opposed to housing. The pivotal difference here was that we were no longer building houses, we were building communities with all its amenities. We were integrating our communities, all the while removing the segregation of Apartheid Spatial Planning. We were building cities and increasing our output. We were partnering with the private sector, especially the banking sector and calling these partnerships catalytic projects.
Today we have more than two of these projects in each province, some more successful than others. Those that are successful are truly a wonder to see, given where we come from and the obstacles we had to overcome.
To begin with, let’s take Cosmo City. We created a partnership with FNB and Radio 702 to help us publicise our concept. We were joined by two major construction companies, who we insisted should partner with emerging contractors. The partnering was magic. It took five years fighting in the courts for the land, but once we passed that hurdle, what we created out of this project is truly outstanding.
What is remarkable about Cosmo City is its multiclass, multiracial and multinational character. The city consists of 12 000 units, with mixed typologies that range from fully subsidised houses to bonded houses and rental units. It is a thriving city with all the elements that our policy determines constitute a human settlement, complete with 12 schools, three shopping malls, health facilities, police stations, a community centre with a hall, 43 parks and recreational areas, a library, a cemetery and several churches.
It is a pity that we lost our relationship with Radio 702 along the way, because this is the kind of success that bring hope to our people that we are changing their lives.
The other project worth mentioning is Cornubia in KwaZulu-Natal. Many of you will be familiar with the advert of Transport about the intersection highways in Edgmore. That is our infrastructure, necessitated by the need to link Cornubia with various parts of Durban We have done amazing work in Cornubia and it will consist of more than 28 000 housing units of various typologies viz. BNG, GAP/Affordable, Social Housing and open market units; 7 secondary schools, 18 primary schools, 4 primary health clinics, 2 community centres, 1 police station, 4 multipurpose halls, 3 local libraries, 2 swimming pools, sports fields, parks, 1 fire station, 1 civic centre, crèche facilities and local retail facilities e.g. Cornubia Industrial Business Estate, Cornubia Shopping Mall, Cornubia Business Hub, N2 Logistics and Retail Park.
I have resolved that we will have to upscale our communications so that our people can see what this government has delivered in the past 25 years. I mention these two projects because they are the highlight of our time. Another highlight is Zanemvula in Port Elizabeth, a housing development that spans an entire landscape. We are still working on its amenities.
The horrors of the N2 Gateway is known to you, with burning shacks every winter. When laundry is not blowing in the wind, you can see the beauty of what we have created. These shacks are a constant danger to our people. We have to do something about the laundry though.
We worked on many other projects, but the point I am putting across is that the power of determination, working with the private sector for funding and working with empowered construction companies, insisting that they empower new entrants into the market has made us very successful.
But all this success is hampered by our ageing infrastructure, urbanisation accruing at a faster rate than we can cope with and then tension between our people and foreign migrants that have been at the forefront of our problems recently. We are working on our problems and we are going to work smarter, using real-time technology to help us detect land invasions, the illegal construction of houses, monitor our construction sites, ensure that our building regulations are adhered to and make shoddy building something of the past. We’ll be able to use this technology to monitor the sewer spillage problem we are experiencing in our older locations, the illegal dumping of sewer into our rivers.
The merging of the Departments of Human Settlements and Water and Sanitation is a bold move by our government to that which is a core function of a government for our people. The combined departments can with strong symbiosis deliver on the thoughtful, judicious and cost effective oversight of the establishment of all variants of human settlements which include provision of water and sanitation. The combination promises a seamless delivery of all commitments and policies executed for both departments. We need to emphasize that without water there cannot be respectfully established human settlements and joyful human endeavours.
I have not yet had the opportunity to meet with my entities since my appointment, but believe that some are in distress. I’ll attend to these and make sure that I give them the necessary support. The message I want to send is that it is not business as usual.
We saw the crisis around housing during the last election, where my poor Deputy Minister was called to every village without water and every sewer leak that she could not fix. In essence, we are off to a rocky start, because our people’s expectations far exceed what we call a wonder delivery of 4 million houses. It is an unequalled delivery, so far as UN-Habitat is concerned, but clearly we are not keeping up with the needs of our people.
We are going to pay particular attention to Military Veterans and this is one of the responsibilities I am delegating to my Deputy Minister. Her late husband, Steve Tshwete was a Military Veteran and all she has to do is imagine a situation where her husband would still not be in possession of a house, 25 years are democracy and she’ll know the frustration of those people who marched on Luthuli House a few weeks ago. They are an urgent priority.
We’ll also be entering the space of student accommodation. We will roll out our projects together with the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology. Our aim is to ensure that 30% of any social housing project should be allocated to student accommodation.
Yesterday I heard in the news that some councillors were selling RDP/ BNG houses, which we hand over free of charge. Eradicating corruption in our value chain is going to be an essential part of our work. We build houses for the indigent and stealing from the poor is the lowest that anybody employed by the government can go and it will not be tolerated.
We will make our work more transparent. Our waiting lists will be published in newspapers in the same way as matric results used to be printed so that our lists are transparent and our beneficiaries are known. This will ensure that construction sites are protected from vandalism. A lot lies ahead of us.