Ten priorities for new Human Settlements Minister Kubayi - ELP

DA MP says dept previously used as a tool to build and reward political patronage networks

Cabinet reshuffle: Ten priorities for Human Settlements Minister Kubayi

09 August 2021

The DA welcomes President Ramaphosa’s decision to appoint Mmamoloko Kubayi as the Minister of Human Settlements. For too long this Department has been used as a tool to build and reward political patronage networks, with little genuine regard for the needs of the country’s poorest.

During this time, Parliamentary questions have been routinely ignored, blame has been shifted, and incompetent cadres circled in and out of key positions. Legal threats have been issued to Members of Parliament, newspaper editors have been telephoned and warned when negative stories have appeared, and millions have been invested into slick communications campaigns that have deliberately sought to obscure the realities on the ground.

Numerous forensic investigations have been publicly launched but never concluded; whilst acting officials have been continuously rotated without the genuine authority to institute healthy reforms.

The President’s ministerial reshuffle now brings renewed hope.

In order to assist Minister Kubayi with the arduous task of cleaning up that lies ahead, the DA has identified ten immediate priorities for the Department of Human Settlements:

Bathabile Dlamini, appointed by Minister Sisulu as the Chairperson of the Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA), must be removed from her position. Aside from the litany of failures that Dlamini has produced during her time in government, it has taken this entity longer than a year to begin disbursing the R600 million that was set aside in the last financial year for urgent Covid-related residential rental relief.

The Housing Development Agency (HDA) which had incurred more than R131 million in cumulative irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure by last financial year, is under administration for the third time in less than half a decade. This important entity was the subject of gross political interference during Minister Sisulu’s term of office and is currently the subject of investigations by both the SIU and the Hawks as a result of referrals made by the DA. It must also be subjected to a full forensic audit in respect of the multi-million-rand losses that it has incurred, and its senior administration must be entirely overhauled.

The Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) is in a state of significant disarray, as multitudes of estate agents will testify. This entity failed to issue hundreds of Fidelity Fund Certificates earlier this year and had to be ordered by the High Court to comply with their legal duties. The forensic investigation into the scandalous affairs of the EAAB currently underway must be completed swiftly, with full findings presented to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee and the public. The vacant Chief Financial Officer post must be filled by a competent and honest external candidate, who will ensure that existing irregularities do not persist.

Once this entity has been stabilised and its senior leadership reviewed, we call on the Minister to urgently finalise the commencement of the Property Practitioners Act via the Presidency. The EAAB is in no state of readiness to implement the requirements of the new Act as the Property Practitioners Regulatory Authority. This remains a matter of grave concern to the industry and must be dealt with speedily.

The National Rapid Response Task Team (NRRTT) appointed by Minister Sisulu, established as a thinly veiled patronage building brigade must be disbanded immediately. Whilst the members of this unit have earned millions in salaries, the ex-Minister was unable to provide Parliamentarians with any substantial evidence of their day-to-day activities or achievements. This unit must be replaced by an advisory body of independent industry experts who are willing to lend the Minister their expertise on a pro-bono basis, in the interests of resolving South Africa’s housing crisis.

Minister Kubayi must urgently increase housing cost allowances for BNG projects, which have not been increased since 2018 despite rising building costs and wage inflation. This has meant that the construction industry has had to choose between suffering a steep decline in revenue, or opting for cheaper and poorer quality building materials. By increasing the threshold, the Department can avoid the on-going initiation of lengthy investigations by the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) into government housing projects. Innovative and environmentally friendly building technologies must be formally prioritised.

The Housing qualifying criteria need to be revised on the basis an evidence-based economic study in order to ensure that the missing middle and larger, mixed families are adequately provisioned.

Long-awaited amendments to the Prevention of Illegal Evictions Act must now take absolute legislative priority. This legislation in its current form is severely hampering local government’s ability to deal decisively with large scale illegal land invasions, resulting in an extensive loss of greenfield land earmarked for housing across the Country. Minister Sisulu highlighted her intention to consider amendments to this Act over two years ago, but to date no substantive progress has been made. The status quo is costing local governments across the country millions, and a fair and just legislative solution must be found.

The policy that empowers the disbursement of the Financed Linked Individual Subsidy (FLISP) - which allows qualifying entry level homeowners to receive a direct government subsidy – must be improved. The Western Cape Provincial Government has recently put forward a number of innovative proposals to the National Department that will see more new home owners taking up this subsidy and we look forward to those proposals being implemented nationwide.

Whilst Minister Sisulu appeared before the Human Settlements Parliamentary Portfolio Committee only once during the past year, we hope that Minister Kubayi will avail herself more frequently to engage constructively with the members who represent the interests of our citizens. Minister Sisulu’s failure to avail herself before the committee had in recent months become a significant source of frustration across party-lines.

As the DA’s Shadow Minister for Human Settlements in Parliament, I look forward to a constructive and robust working relationship with Minister Kubayi that serves the people of South Africa well.

Statement issued by Emma Louise Powell - DA Shadow Minister for Human Settlements, 9 August 2021