Eastern Cape reply to Sopa address

Kobus Botha (MPL)

Shadow MEC for Human Settlements

Note: The debate on Premier Phumulo Masualle’s State of the Province Address resumes today in the Bhisho Legislature. (Wednesday, 2 July 2014). Below is the speech by DA Shadow MEC for Human Settlements, Kobus Botha.

Honourable Speaker, I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust voters have placed in our democratic system and ultimately in us, as their elected voice.

I also want to congratulate the Honourable Premier, on his delivery of the State of the Province Address (SOPA) that was tabled on Friday, 27 June 2014.

I wish the Premier well in his new leadership role.

In terms of leadership, Honourable Speaker, our expectations as the DA is that the Honourable Premier must lead with honesty, transparency, integrity and without fear or favour.

Honourable Speaker, I would like to sketch the following background to the Premier’s Human Settlements commitments.

In order for us to create the future, one needs to understand our past, and where we come from as a nation.

This approach will allow this House to take correct decisions and craft attainable objectives.

Honourable Speaker, it is a fact, that the Apartheid spatial city planning and development was a political economy of space with two central features, one being racially-based planning, and the other a political economy in which development for some occurred at the expense of the majority.

Speaker, it is a fact, that under Apartheid, poor, black residents were forced to live in sprawling, squalid dormitory townships of undifferentiated ‘matchbox’ type houses.

It is also fact that these areas were relatively poorly serviced with few if any infrastructure and urban amenities, and were virtually devoid of work opportunities or shopping and entertainment complexes.

On the other hand Speaker, most white residents lived in well laid-out and well-serviced suburbs, located conveniently close to employment opportunities and major urban facilities.

It is also a fact that since 1994, the governing ANC has passed numerous pieces of national legislation, policies, and strategies have been developed, which have had, as one of their goals, the redesign and restructuring of the Apartheid cities.

It is with the above in mind, Honourable Speaker, that I welcome the Premier’s statement.

When he says, and I quote, “that we must all work together to build integrated human settlements and cohesive communities that will provide our people with decent facilities, public services and access to economic opportunities”.

The DA also welcomes the Premiers statement that says:  “Sustainable human settlement planning will be pursued in an integrated manner to de-racialise settlement patterns and tackle asset and infrastructure deficiency”.

He then states further that; “Over this term, we will provide 78 000 housing units”.

Madam Speaker, in perspective, this statement will require the department of Human Settlements to build and deliver fifteen thousand, building regulation compliant housing units per year, one thousand three hundred complete units per month over a period of 57 months.

The Honourable Premier must be applauded for his ambitious target, but one must ponder, and ask, is this target realistically achievable, given the fact that the Auditor General highlighted twenty major points of audit contraventions for the year 2012/13?

And the fact that the quality of housing is so poor that new units requires rectification of rectification and this reduces our capacity.

This is compounded by the department’s under-spending on the budget on human settlements development conditional grant funding for 2012/13, to the tune of R 291 million.

This same department incurred irregular expenditure to the tune of R 210 million.

Disappointingly, elements of housing corruption and the high vacancy rate of skilled personnel still impacts negative on the department as scarce skills such as architects, land surveyors and building inspectors dwindles.

On the point of corruption, Speaker, I would like to use this platform to bring several years of community frustration to expose various housing irregularities and corruption in Buffalo City Metropolitan ward 10, 7de Laan, Haven Hills, low cost high density housing development project to the attention of the Premier.

This needs urgent investigation and as the DA we will pursue this.

Honourable Speaker, I would also urge the Premier to investigate the housing development in Mdantsane, ward 33, the Needs Camp area, where well known singer Zahara originates from.

Honourable Speaker, more than several house foundations without Top Structures are visible.

What about the needy families that desperately require these houses to be built to shelter them from the elements.

I trust that the Honourable Premier, will take note of these two wards in BCM and take action on the findings.

Honourable Speaker, the DA is of the opinion that the Premier would have to strengthen local capacity and work very hard to improve proper planning coordination between the provincial department and local municipalities.

Honourable Speaker, as the leadership of this Legislature, we have to acknowledge, that we still have a long way to go, to realise the fulfilling of delivering a range of housing opportunities in a way that is most fair, considering our limited resources and increasing demand for comfortable-good quality housing for qualifying beneficiaries of the Eastern Cape.

In closing Madam Speaker, the Democratic Alliance will work closely with the Premier and the various MEC’s as to ensure the enforcement of Section 114 (2) of the Constitution, accountability for targets set and promises made to all South Africans of the Eastern Cape.

Honourable Speaker, the ANC will only be able to deliver the Premiers Human Settlements targets of 78 000 houses and 3300 social and rental housing units for this term, if they address the issues that I have pointed out.