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Townships will continue to burn over land reform

Government’s shocking progress report on housing supply will delay the urgent land reform initiative to restore the dignity of poor people.

It’s astonishing how the call to accelerate land reform in recent months has become a leitmotif for political populism, radicalism and even racism – a black or white issue.

SA’s land issue cannot be thought of in simplistic in terms and arguments that do so don’t take into account how deep-rooted and emotional the topic is.

Virtually no day goes by lately without protests in SA.

Recent protests and land occupation incidents in the Western Cape’s Zwelihle, Mitchells Plain and Vrygrond, Northwest’s Rustenburg and Gauteng’s Eldorado Park, Freedom Park and Protea Glen, have a common theme: it’s the valid demand for adequate land and housing.

Fed up with living in shacks and being placed on waiting lists since the inception of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (known as RDP) – a housing policy now referred to as Breaking New Ground – by the ANC in 1994, residents barricaded roads with burning tyres and fought with police and neighbours.

Politicians – including a prominent opposition leader clad in a red beret and red onesie – have caught a whiff of the smoke around the country, encouraging victims of poverty to occupy any piece of land. This is a cheap shot at political opportunism by using desperate people, who simply want to restore their dignity through owning a home.

Sadly, townships will continue to burn, if shocking figures from the Department of Human Settlements, are anything to go by.

In her budget vote in Parliament last week, the new Minister of Human Settlements Nomaindia Mfeketo revealed that her department’s R32.3 billion budget for the 2018/19 has been cut by R10 billion. This is part of the cuts made in the February Budget to free up more than R50 billion to make Jacob Zuma’s costly legacy of fee-free higher education possible.

The funding reduction will be a shock to the system as it will likely undermine the department’s ability to address the 2.1 million backlog in the supply of urban-based and low-cost houses at a time when rapid urbanisation continues.

After all, along with assisting more than ten million citizens receiving monthly social grants, the provision of more than three million low-cost houses to the indigent is widely considered to be the ANC’s success story since 1994.

Although not yet mentioned, the budget cuts will have a far-reaching impact, also making it difficult for the department to fund housing subsidies for people earning between R3 501 and R15 000 – considered too rich to qualify for a government house and too poor to qualify for a bank loan.

Budget cuts will even hinder the state’s grandiose target of fast-tracking the release of more than 800 000 title deeds by 2019 to people who own state-provided homes but have nothing to show for it.

Housing target downgraded

It’s inevitable that Mfeketo’s department will miss its five-year target (from 2014-2019) of providing 745 000 homes by 2019. Under Mfeketo, the department has already downgraded this target to 635 000. Mfeketo’s predecessor Lindiwe Sisulu was more ambitious, wanting 1.5 million houses by 2019.

Lindiwe Sisulu. Picture: Bloomberg

Latest figures from the Department of Monitoring and Evaluation indicate that the department has built just over 410 000 homes, raising fears that the revised 2019 target won’t be achieved.

The downgrade of the housing target reflects a toxic mix of poor governance by the department, budget cuts, housing policy instability and overall mismanagement of funds. Making matters worse is that the department had received nearly R1 billion increases in its annual budget since 2014 but has struggled to meet its housing targets.

Mfeketo is looking at the business community and development finance institutions to plug the funding shrinkage and roll out “the rapid release of land” programme to address the housing demand.

Essentially, the programme allows the state to acquire serviced land parcels for people to build their own homes or upgrade informal settlements.

Like previous housing policies, the “rapid release of land” – still in an early stage – isn’t new but has been given a sexy slogan. In fact, a similar plan was touted by Sisulu.

It would be impulsive to hold our breath for quick solutions and responses to the housing and land conundrum. It’s election season, where the governing party and opposition will say anything and everything. The trust deficit between the public and state will only reduce once the poor turn keys to quality homes.

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Let’s face it, the population growth of around 1% a year means more than half a million people a year needing new housing. If we consider only couples, even that is 250 000 houses a year. This is twice the number planned, and far more than actually built in a year. Add to this the generally shoddy construction and soon the houses built 20 years ago will be required replacement.

The backlog in housing for the poor, the shortage of land for human settlements and the implosion of service delivery are all merely symptoms of the problem. There is an oversupply of housing for people with jobs. Entrepreneurs buy their own land, build their own houses and provide their own services.

This implosion of service delivery and the shortage of land for RDP housing is caused by a failure of political/economical policy. The ANC manifesto (The Freedom Charter), and the ANC policy of Employment Equity (affirmative action), BEE and cadre deployment led to institutionalized incompetence and corruption. This is the root of the problem.

The current situation demonstrates the destruction brought about by a socialist government. It begins with noble aims by truly well-meaning individuals and ends in a police state where the impoverished individual, with no rights, can only choose between full metal-jacket, or rubber bullets.

When your government forces certain people to employ certain people, forces certain entrepreneurs to give 30% of their business to certain people, decides to fund only those who cause the most destruction, and produces new plans on a regular basis, you know that you are in deep trouble.

I agree and let’s add a few factors; deliberate exclusion of established construction companies to favour fly by night connected cadre outfits who either built fewer or very low quality houses; skimmed off cash personally and no doubt to the ANC party (think Mpisane’s in Durban). The actual housing is poorly planned, allocation is often corrupt, services are uncertain (hence protests) and occupiers don’t even own them in many cases. So much for “land reform”. Then add that many of these occupiers also have “houses” in “tribal” areas; which they also don’t own (have title to). So much for land reform.

Now we have silly Cyril bleating about EWC; ostensibly targeting white farmland when its urban land that is needed. Not one statement from him or his cabal of Ace and Mabuza et al about giving anyone title deeds. He is either stupid, thinks the people are stupid or just trying to keep the distraction going while he and his chums play the system and get scoff in the trough. Ludicrous to expect a good outcome.

Last week it was reported in the Sowetan that in the Northwest province, poor project management and monitoring resulted in 503 housing units being demolished and rebuilt because of quality defects, even though the contractor had been paid in full. Three departments were to blame for close to 60% of the irregular expenditure, with community safety and transport accounting for R880-million. Health’s portion amounted to R714-million, and public works and roads had a share of R550-million. That is R2,14 billion down the toilet but not a single person held responsible or arrested. Seriously how long can we go on like this??

The current socialist model can never win, its akin to betting on grey at the roulette table . With the uncontrolled population expansion, its equal to saying that @70% of all babies born every day will ultimately need to be given R100,000 + – value of RDP house in to- days money.

The tax base and need to spend on infrastructure to attract and sustain development which will provide employment is just of a greater need , which ultimately will provide wealth and taxes to sustain and provide housing for real people in need .

The interim solution would be to follow models of other 3rd world countries and provide housing through collectively managed housing owned and managed & maintained by a private company that is paid a state fixed monthly amount when ever each unit is occupied and these payments are capped with the remainder of rental paid by the units resident through either direct payment and or work done that is centered at or near the housing ( think Kibutz style)

This would free up state taxes for growth and development , not seen as free handout of taxes ( tittle deeds to sell and gain from )of the people that work and pay the taxes and more importantly provide the underemployed-low income resident with self pride !

A compliment to the writer(s) for a good article with good arguments put forward. Yes, we have a problem a big one.

I’m not sarcastic, but seriously wondering what happened to the skill people had to build houses from natural materials. Those ancient style round houses (in the rural East side of the country) with grass roofs and mud/manure plastered walls are actually very solid, weather proof and also warm in winter and cool in summer. A zink shack costs money and uses material that makes it very hot in summer and freezing in winter.

Has any government, local or national, ever considered to develop land, with only developed infrastructure and plots, no houses built i.e. laid out plots with services laid on, road and rail links to major centers and give title to all who wants a plot of their own, to erect whatever house they can afford. (With a minimum of over sight).
1 hectare = 10 000 meter sq, plots 20 x 20 m. 20 plots / ha (the rest goes to roads). At 100 ha at a time it gives you 2 000 plots, string a few sections on the same transport routes and I am sure the cost to government will be a lot less than HOP houses.
Over time such properties can grow out of shack to house.
Certainly not ideal.
Certainly a lot better than the current squatter camps.

Good comment QO but I have been slightly involved in such a scheme and thought it brilliant; unemployed people did the work and I was really positive. Then the NHBRC and the municipality ganged up on them demanding all sorts of design, registration and documentation that was blatantly ignored for the surrounding “RDP” houses built by ANC cadre tenderpreneurs. And the demands were intractable to the extent that, as a professional, I could not help any more and it was clear that this type of project was going to be squashed, come what may, as it took money out of the greedy paws of the connected cadres. So I withdrew, sadder, much more cynical and pretty angry. A year or two later there was a big shake up in the housing departament but only to put new heads to the trough “their turn to eat”.

How about tackling the out of control birth rate of the indigenous folk.
My part-time maid had two kids when she started working for me, had another one within a year to trap a man at that time. when he left fell pregnant with another man’s child to hook him. i am certain the new man wo’nt last long , then she will be supporting FOUR kids on a domestic salary.
the govt. can build as many houses as they want but until we have a disciplined majority this country is never going to cope, NEVER.

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