In a written reply to a DA parliamentary question, the Department of Public Works (DPW) has revealed that it holds a staggering portfolio of land and property holdings, worth over R12 billion, that are lying idle and unutilised.
While this land and properties are not used, rates and taxes paid on these holdings, which comprise 1,9 million hectares and over 12 000 properties, has amounted to R138 million since 2014. This is in addition to R9 million that has been spent in the same period maintaining these properties.
It is staggering that taxpayers are forced to pay for these non-productive properties and lands.
The DA will write to the Minister of Public Works, Nathi Nhleko, to demand that his department must immediately conduct an audit of the unutilised land in terms of its potential for alternative uses.
Well-situated and unutilised land should be made available for housing for the poor. Alternatively, it must be leased or sold off to reduce the tax and maintenance burden on the state which be used for service delivery.
The DA finds it unacceptable that the DPW is sitting on vast acres of land while millions of South Africans continue to be excluded from land ownership. It exposes the hypocrisy of the ANC government and its lack of commitment to addressing the land question.
The DPW should play its part in reducing the growing budget deficit by avoiding wasteful expenditure on properties that it does not use or need. South Africa's precarious public finances simply cannot afford to keep paying for non-essential cost items that are nothing more a burden to the fiscus.
The DA looks forward to a timely conclusion of this DPW land holdings audit and its eventual transfer to South Africans who are eager to put it to productive use.
Malcom Figg MP
DA Shadow Minister of Public Works