Human Settlements And Public Works Budget Debate

 

By Hon. Inkosi N. B. Shabalala, MPL
 

KwaZulu-Natal Legislature:  Pietermaritzburg : 20 April 2010

Kennedy Settlement and Mpisane Controversy

 

 

Hon. Speaker,

 

The Hon. MEC delivers her budget speech against the background of a few controversies around housing-related matters. I wish to highlight two of such issues.

KENNEDY ROAD SETTLEMENT

One is the question of the Kennedy Road Settlement in eThekwini.

Communities residing in this settlement have for some time now been involved in a struggle for recognition and, they had had some confrontations with the police. At issue, in my view is the feeling of neglect by the eThekwini Municipality which seems not to have any plan to attend to their plight.

It is known that on the 22nd March this year they even staged a march on these very issues, including the release of those among them who had been detained.

We would like to hear from the MEC if there are any serious plans to engage these residents of eThekwini towards resolving their problems.

 

ZIKHULISE'S UMLAZI HOUSING

The second, and probably the most controversial concerns the company known as Zikhulise Cleaning, Transport and Maintenance that was awarded a R300m tender by the eThekwini Municipality to build houses at uMlazi.

I am not going to waste the time of this House by detailing the outcry that erupted after this debacle/ devastation/ catastrophe.   I will just focus on two aspects of this issue:

 

Firstly, in the Sunday Tribune dated 18 April 2010, the owner of this company, Mrs. Shawn Mpisane is reported lambasting the Hon. MEC for releasing a report by the National Home Builders Registration Council to the effect that about 30% of the houses built by this company were not of good quality. In her defence she passes the buck to the eThekwini Municipality. I take it that the NHBRC as a professional body could not just fabricate a story just to besmirch the name of Zikhulise.

 

It has emerged also Hon. Speaker that when the eThekwini Municipality awarded a contract to this company, it was not registered with the National Home Builders Registration Council. For the record let me state that the NHBRC is not just a voluntary structure which came about as a result of an initiative by the contractors. Rather it is a statutory body established in terms of the Housing Consumer Protection Measures Act, 1998 (Act No. 95 of 1998). And it was established mainly to protect the interest of housing consumers, and to regulate the home building industry. I just cannot understand how a government organ, the eThekwini Municipality, could grant a tender to a company that did not satisfy at least one legal condition. This is tantamount to entrusting your vehicle to a bush-mechanic just because you happen to know them.

 

How does a municipality throw the tax-payers money into a company operating in the bush? Because if you are not registered with a statutory body you are as good as bush-mechanic. Secondly, even if the company was registered, does it make moral sense to give one company a R300m tender when the objectives of black economic empowerment are to uplift as many people as possible - that is, it must be broad-based? Why do we enable one person or family to purchase a Ferrari when we could enable about ten families to buy BMW's? To us this is politically unethical.

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These are the reasons that led some in the community to argue that this was done because Mrs. Mpisane is the daughter of the ANC activist, the late Mrs. Florence Mkhize. What tends to lend some credence to these assertions is the fact that the former MEC for Community Safety, who is now General Bheki Cele, has Mr. Mpisane, among the team of those he has selected to negotiate marital processes for him with his in-laws, the Ngcobo family. Mind you, Cele is a former ANC Chairperson in the eThekwini Region. And indeed Cele was among those who danced the night away at the much-publicized expensive bash organized by the Mpisane's at the beginning of this year.    

     

Hon. Speaker, the same report compiled by the NHRBC, also fingered the Municipality for having neglected their duties with regards to the same project. Hon. Speaker, I would like to hear the MEC's response to these issues as well as what she intends doing to restore morality and political probity in that Municipality which seems driven by party-political interests. The MEC's response is even more critical because the eThekwini Municipality has been reported to defend themselves by saying that they inherited this project from the Provincial Government. Now we would like to know if it was this government that appointed Zikhulise and gave eThekwini an already sewn jacket for them just to wear it.

 

Hon. Speaker, speaking at the Human Settlements Summit held at the Farmers Hall in Newcastle on the 27th August 2009, the MEC stated:

"Firstly, we cannot allow housing subsidies to be consumed in repairs and "rectification." This is fruitless expenditure as had the houses been built according to acceptable standards the need for rectification and repairs would not have arisen.

 

"The Department of Human Settlements has reached an agreement with the National Home Builders Registration Council. The aim of this agreement is to ensure that all Housing development projects rolled out by the department are enrolled with the NHBRC to ensure quality products and to ensure that government is able to hold service providers in the built environment liable for any quality related problems.

 

"Secondly, providing houses of inferior quality indicates a disregard and disrespect for the very people that this Department is supposed to serve and assist. We must work closely with the planning and monitoring units in the Office of the Premier. In our department, we should have our own monitoring unit to assess the quality and quantity of new homes in addition to the National Home Builders' Registration Council. We cannot allow the current parlous situation of shoddy, sub-standard housing provision to prevail."

 

These were noble sentiments Hon. Speaker. However, they are contradicted by the spectacle of the Mpisane debacle.

 

I wish also to know how far the MEC has gone in as far as implementing what she stated in Newcastle, especially working closely with the monitoring units in the Premier's Office and establishing their own monitoring unit in the Department.

 

  

ASSISTANCE FOR MIDDLE INCOME-EARNERS

In the same address, the MEC spoke of protocols signed with ABSA and FNB aimed at addressing the plight of the middle-income group earning between R3500-7500 who are generally turned away by banks when they attempt to obtain housing finance.

 

How far is the MEC with that program; has it begun to bear fruit?

 

The MEC went on to talk of "provision of rural housing" remaining "a key housing intervention of her Department" and about coming up with "new initiatives are to accelerate the development of quality rural human settlements."

 

She went on to state:

"The national Department of Human Settlements is currently considering the introduction of a voucher system to be used in the construction of rural housing. This system which draws from the owner-builder concept will be piloted shortly."

 

Hon. Speaker, where are we with this program, especially the voucher system?

 

Hostels' Rental Boycotts

We are aware that some hostel residents have taken a conscious stand against paying rent and paying for other services.

 

Hon. Speaker this is an unfortunate situation because the boycotting of rent-payments hinder government from carrying out their responsibilities, which in turn worsens the already untenable situation most hostels find themselves in.

 

As a party committed to finding solutions and basing its positions on facts, IFP's eThekwini leadership conducted a fact-finding mission to a few hostels in eThekwini to establish for themselves if indeed the complaints raised by the hostel dwellers in their marches were genuine. Unfortunately, their findings proved the accuracy of those complaints. They discovered that the situation in almost all hostels was not conducive to human occupation.

 

This finding strengthened our resolution to urge the Provincial Department to intervene with a view of making the eThekwini Municipality realize how urgent it is to address the complaints of hostel residents.

 

While we do not condone rent-boycotts, we however understand and sympathize with those who found themselves in these very unhealthy circumstances. One tends to understand the position they have taken because it is demoralizing to keep on paying when there are no tangible returns for your payments.

 

We appeal to the MEC therefore to exercise some leadership and prevail upon the eThekwini Municipality to move beyond recognizing the problems in the hostels, towards doing something about these conditions.

 

As all of us here have electoral mandate to serve our people but over and above we on the opposition bench have an obligation to channel the MEC when she moves out of her way. MEC, your paramount duty is to build houses for all KZN people irrespective of what municipality they reside in.  The houses should be of good quality and be finished by the required time and be handed over to the relevant beneficiaries.

 

It is worrying, MEC, to find some municipalities using housing as a campaigning machinery especially as we approach the local government elections. Some officials promote candidates of their choice to deliver houses by, by-passing ward councillors if they happen to be not of their camps to garner votes.

 

The houses that are built, Hon. MEC, do not cater for most rural people due to the approach of one size fits all. Even if a family has got 12 members it will be given one similar to a family of 3.

 

Hon. MEC it is a known fact that some other municipalities do not have capacity as far as building of houses is concerned. After your appointment as MEC for Human Settlement what assistance will you provide to those poor municipalities in order to get value for money on those projects?

 

In this house, Hon. MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs stated that some municipalities got disclaimers in their last financial year. One amongst other issues that led to that was the issuing of tenders by municipalities in housing construction. When will you start an initiative of helping those municipalities by taking your share into consideration by capacitating them for them to come out of that dilemma?

 

When our municipalities are failing to deliver we are all losers irrespective of whatever sphere of government you serve and when they manage we all get credit.