DA KZN:  Silent division between what is needed and what the Budget delivers

Hlanganani Gumbi, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Human Settlements

KZN’s Human Settlements department must invest in site and service, alternative housing material and technologies and finding innovative methods of partnering with citizens, the private sector, and civil society if it is to make an impact on the province’s massive housing backlog.

Our country’s own National Development Plan recognizes that it is unsustainable for government to continue giving out free houses as the primary means of addressing human settlements. There is also a general acceptance that people must become active citizens in meeting their challenges and not passive recipients of government subsidies.

Overall, KZN’s Human Settlement budget sees a minimal increase of approximately R 9 million.  With the current backlog of approximately  900 000, it would take the Department approximately 33 years, at the current rate of delivery, to catch up let alone worry about new demands.

But it is not good enough for this dismal performance to be attributed to problems in topography, infrastructural challenges and community conflict – the new excuse for the department’s failures.  We need to be asking;

–          Has the MEC focused his department to deal with those issues so we reach and exceed yesterday’s performance?

–          Has the MEC ensured the department and its implementing agents make maximum use of available and suitable land?

–          Is KZN maximising its ability to densify so that there is more for less?

–          Has the department planned properly so that budgets are spent well and we don’t ever repeat the new levels of eThekwini’s under expenditure of 40% in the 2013/14 budget?

–          Has there been sufficient planning so that we do not have a repeat of the Human Settlements scandal of being the major contributor of almost half of the non-expenditure in the province’s entire Infrastructure budget of roughly R250 million in this last financial year?

–          Why is the department developing houses where there are no bulk services? Mbazwana is an example – recipients have abandoned houses and moved to occupy others in Jozini.  There are more examples. Proper planning is essential.

–          Are we actually implementing appropriate housing waiting lists so that we avoid community conflicts and ultimately violent protests due to allocations corruption and the like?

–          Are we ensuring fairness, transparency and accountability in allocations by removing politically biased councillors and ward committee members from deciding allocations, and empowering impartial systems and officials to do their job? Or are we conveniently blocking waiting lists, so that we use allocations for elections, political patronage and to abuse our powers?

–          And lastly are we dealing with shoddy contractors by blacklisting them, and recovering monies effectively stolen from the homeless? Or are we rewarding them with more contracts because they are part of a connected elite of ANC cronies swimming in what this government refers to as “a culture of entitlement” while directing R206 million away from building new houses, to rectifying poorly built houses through the National Rectification Programme in KZN in the last 3 years?

These are the real questions hidden behind the thin black and white writing of this budget. It is in the details where the devil resides.

KZN cannot manifest a culture of active citizens when government reinforces the opposite.  The MEC agrees that we need to invest in alternative materials and technologies. But does the Budget agree? What about the budget specifically invests into this new future?

The DA believes that there is a silent division between what the MEC wants, and what the budget actually delivers.

Today I have invited a delegation from Abalali Basemjondolo, through their President, Mr Sbu Zikode.  Abahlali represents hundreds of thousands of shack dwellers willing to partner with government to meet their challenges. It wants nothing more than what many of our poorest citizen’s desire – an opportunity for a job, a house, security and to be treated fairly.

But the road they have travelled with this government has been an abusive one. Especially around the evictions which are often illegally conducted without a court order and in the middle of the night.

If this provincial government respects the rule of law around evictions and human rights, then some kind of provision must be made around this budget to deal with temporary relief accommodation before evictions.  Women, children and the most vulnerable of our society cannot be thrown out onto the streets in the middle of the night.

MEC, the DA agrees we must not work backwards in this regard, but we cannot work against the constitution.  We will need to have an honest conversation on innovative solutions in this regard.

The DA welcomes the MEC’s new commitment to fast tracking the handing over of title deeds to citizens. Homes must also be assets for citizen’s upward economic mobility. The ownership of property and land unlocks economic power and so we must use title deeds to economically free our people. This is non-negotiable – it simply has to happen. The DA will aggressively monitor title deed backlogs, and assist in your commitment to addressing them.

A DA budget would invest far more in FLISP which provides a critical step up within the gap market for those earning too little to get a home loan.  We would provide applicants with capital towards their home loan. It speaks to the vision of the NDP and the DA. I appreciate the challenges around incentivizing FLISP but I believe we can all work hard to marketing and make it a much larger part of our agenda to propelling people into owning their own property.

MEC – it is not enough to simply recognise the challenges facing your department. The department and its resources, amounting to R3.6 billion this year, must be put to work to achieving its mandate.  To this end, the DA as KZN’s Official Opposition is committed to oversight and constructive engagement in order to accomplish this.