South Africa: Transparency in Beneficiary List Prevents Illegal Occupation of Houses

The Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements has called for absolute transparency regarding the housing beneficiary list, to ensure that beneficiaries know their place on the waiting list.

The committee highlighted this during the first day of its oversight visits in Gauteng to assess progress in the implementation of human settlements targets by all spheres of government.

Committee Chairperson, Machwene Semenya, said the perpetual challenge of illegal occupation of unfinished houses can be alleviated by information and collaboration with the community.

“Furthermore, transparency will dispel the perception of corruption by human settlements officials. Transparency will also engender a sense of ownership among beneficiaries on the list,” Semenya said.

The committee visited Fleurhof Housing Project, Lufhereng Housing Project and the Diepsloot/Riverside Megaproject.

Both Fleurhof Housing Project and Lufhereng Housing Project have experienced various illegal occupations.

The committee appreciated the progress made on the three projects, but highlighted concerns about underperformance on delivery of targets, especially the megaprojects and Rapid Land Release Programme (RLRP).

While the committee welcomes the paradigm shift from small, sporadic projects to megaprojects, the committee raised concerns that only 4 376 of 13 892 houses were delivered by 31 December.

The department has also delivered 10 080 serviced sites from the targeted 14 266.

“While we are cognisant of the impact of COVID-19 on infrastructure development, we are disappointed that performance has been substandard. Despite this, we welcome initiatives by all spheres of government to speed up service delivery,” Semenya said.

The committee said the interventions towards resolving the underperformance include weekly monitoring of construction, the appointment of additional contractors to take up construction, as well as adjustment of delivery targets to accommodate delays caused by COVID-19.

Hostel Redevelopment Programme

The committee raised its disappointment regarding the lack of Hostel Redevelopment Programme implementation, especially in the context of in-migration to Gauteng.

“The committee is concerned that none of the 270 family units planned and eight hostel re-development projects has been implemented. The excuse that this is due to delays in the finalisation of procurement processes is unacceptable and the committee has demanded quarterly updates on the process to appoint service providers to implement the projects,” the chairperson said.

De-densifying informal settlements

Meanwhile, the committee has called for the development of a discussion paper to find solutions to challenges faced by government when de-densifying informal settlements.

Semenya said the committee is concerned that there is no standard approach to ensure that in the process of moving communities from informal settlements, there is no re-occupation of land causing further densification.

COVID-19 impact on construction industry

Regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the construction industry, the committee said it is aware of the impact to small and medium enterprises within the sector due to the slowdown of economic activity.

The committee has called for the continued support of these enterprises, especially in relation to timely payment for services rendered.

The committee also welcomed progress in the delivery of pre-and post-1994 title deeds, but called for strategies to expedite the programme. It further welcomed government’s assurance that the current title deeds are being delivered upon completion and occupation of housing units.

“Despite all the progress, the committee is concerned by the slow delivery of housing for military veterans, with only 10 delivered of the targeted 416 in the 2021/22 financial year. We are aware of challenges caused by military veterans beneficiary lists and call on the Department of Military Veterans to expedite the verification process to ensure that correct beneficiaries benefit,” Semenya said.

The committee visited sites in the Ekurhuleni region, including Leeuwport, Johan Dube, Savanna City and Lethabong Megaprojects on Tuesday.

The committee is expected to visit Bonaero Park in Kempton Park to assess progress in resolving challenges raised in a petition from the residents who have been struggling with the spillage of raw sewage in the area.