Tabling her department’s plans and targets for this financial year, the Minister of the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Ms Lindiwe Sisulu, claimed that her department’s budget heralds an era of innovation meant to intensify integrated communities to do away with the racial divides of apartheid spatial planning by providing affordable low-income earners houses near their places of work, and where economic activities are concentrated.

“We have now earmarked a catalytic project which brings together the private and public sectors to develop integrated settlements on a scale in places such as Cosmo City in Johannesburg which has tested the private sector’s appetite to join forces with the government,” she emphasised.

This is meant to ensure that there are integrated living spaces which bring business centres and industrial zones together, she said.

She said apart from that, there is a need to build new cities to accommodate the rapid rate of urbanisation. “Urbanisation is a phenomenon of our time. And as the department, we are building cities to deal with the apartheid spatial development.”

Part of this strategy is to turn former mine cities, which have now become ghost cities, into fully-fledged cities.

She also maintained that the department would not allow the current cities to decay, and as such “the department is determined to turn the current cities into vibrant economic zones”.

“This should not disregard our commitment to turn our townships into a vibrant property market that would attract economic activity and growth,” she added. 

She is, though, pleased that the Bill on land expropriation without compensation has now been published. “As a department we will expropriate abandoned land and hijacked buildings to create social housing.”

To speed up its priorities, the department intends to establish a Human Settlements Bank which will “centralise financing activities across the housing supply chain”.

As part of its long-term goal, the department intends to establish a new housing initiative called Zenzele (do it yourself), aimed at empowering women, youth and people with disabilities to build their own houses.

The department also intends to utilise the capabilities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to reduce land invasion, reduce bad workmanship in its housing projects and to fight fraud and corruption.

“We are here to account for our action,” she pointed out, “on how we intend to take people out of their misery.” 

The dire consequences of apartheid spatial planning are still real, as such “we welcome the department’s prioritisation of the integrated human settlements to ensure that these patterns are eradicated and a better life for all is realised”, said the Chairperson of the Portfolio on Human Settlement, Ms Rosina Semenya.

She promised that her committee would conduct its oversight to ensure that the department achieves “its responsibility to build houses that will restore the dignity of our people. Because decent housing is not a privilege, but a right”.

According to her, the R33.3 billion allocated to the department would go a long way in achieving the salient objectives of the National Development Plan.  

“There is no single, but a bucket of solutions to our housing problem, part of which is a need to ensure that there is a single housing data to cross-reference the beneficiaries of RDP houses and to have a housing audit to ensure that there is no corruption in the allocation of houses,” she said.

“The R1 billion cut in the department’s budget would not help its cause because the shortage of houses is a hole that is getting deeper and deeper. The sub-human conditions that many hostel dwellers live in, which are comparable to the living conditions of livestock, is a case in point,” said Mr Xolani Ngwezi of the Inkatha Freedom Party.  

Rev Kenneth Meshoe of the African Christian Democratic Party said: “We will support the department’s budget vote only if it shows a determination to find out the missing billions meant for the development of Alexandra.”  He said the people of Alexandra live in unhygienic conditions while billions meant for the development of their township went missing. “Unless corruption and accountability is achieved, your priorities won’t be realised,” he said.

Also participating in the debate, the President of the United Democratic Movement, Mr Bantu Holomisa, said without continuity, performance cannot be measured. “The department cannot focus on managing crisis, it should have a master plan that will unify its development plan, that will also instil continuity in its performance,” he said.

“I urge the department to use public funds for public good,” said Mr Shaun August. “We should use this budget to confront socio-economic insecurity and to eradicate the relations between spaces and races.”

Mr Ahmed Shaik-Emmam of the National Freedom Party pleaded with the Minister to spend a single night in an RDP house. “I don’t call them homes because they are sub-standard houses. It is sad that this is a life that our people are subjected to 25 years into our democracy,” he said.

The Budget Votes debates are part of a broader budgetary process, which began when Mr Tito Mboweni tabled the 2019 Annual National Budget on 20 February 2019. The budget votes process is linked to the 2019 Appropriation Bill, which in terms of section 213 of the Constitution, seeks to appropriate money from the National Revenue Fund for requirements of the state for the 2019/20 financial year.

The fifth democratic Parliament adopted the 2019 Fiscal Framework and enacted the 2019 Division of Revenue Bill, but could not process the 2019 Appropriations Bill due to the national general elections.

The sixth democratic Parliament is now considering the 2019 Appropriation Bill, through budget vote debates in mini-plenary sittings. Provisionally, these mini-plenary sittings are scheduled to culminate in a full plenary sitting of the National Assembly on 23 July 2019.

This National Assembly plenary sitting would decide on the Appropriation Bill and its votes and schedules. Once the National Assembly has agreed to the Appropriation Bill, it will be sent to the National Council of Provinces for consideration and decision. In line with section 10 of the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act (The Money Bills Act), the Select and Standing Committees on Appropriations have until the end of July to process the Appropriation Bill.

By Abel Mputing
10 July 2019