South Africa: MEC Tertius Simmers On Year As MEC for Human Settlements

press release

As I reflect on my first year as the Western Cape Minister of Human Settlements, my drive to serve the people of this province is becoming greater with every single day. There is no bigger calling than making a difference in the lives of people.

When I commenced in this role, I committed to engaging each municipal area, to get a first-hand account of what the human settlement issues are across the province. I'm pleased to inform you that I have travelled the length and breadth of our province, to achieve this. In addition, I've engaged a host of stakeholders.

These are inclusive of colleagues and officials across the spheres of government and departments, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), private entities, particularly the banking and construction sectors, organised community organisations, such as Ward, - and Project Steering Committees, along with various associations and the public at large.

These engagements clearly demonstrated that we had to adopt a radical approach if we're going to address the housing needs of our people. This has been further compounded by the current crisis we find ourselves in due to COVID-19.

As an initial and early initiative, I established four key radical drivers, which forms part of my institutional policies and strategies over the five-year planning period, to address this. These drivers are:

1. Radical Acceleration of Housing Opportunities;

2. Radical Implementation of Innovative Solutions;

3. An Integrated Approach to Human Settlements and

4. Radical Empowerment and Job Creation.

The term radical, can at times be frowned upon, however in this instance its purpose is to ensure a significant push towards getting our people into houses and affording ownership through Title Deeds, as in both instances, it ensures that a better life is created for our people, while we're also restoring their dignity, given our past injustices.

On 27 March 2020, after President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a National Disaster and instituted Alert level 5 lockdown, due to COVID-19, we had to close all our construction sites. Between 1 June 2019 and the start of the lockdown, we built 6 293 houses, while 1 381 Title Deeds were handed over.

These Title Deeds were handed over in Delft (85), Blue Downs (52) and Belhar (19) in the City of Cape Town, in Caledon (120) and Tesselaarsdal (77) in the Theewaterskloof municipal area, Ebenhaeser (34) in the Matzikama municipal area, in Gouda (135), Saron (269), and Mbekweni (75) in the Drakenstein municipal area, in Oudtshoorn (357), Riversdale (3), Slangrivier (143), George (8) and Wilderness (4) in the Southern Cape.

Now that we're once again allowed to hand over both houses and Title Deeds, it'll commence in earnestness. I am particularly looking forward to handing over more than 1 300 units by 7 June. The first of these housing handovers will be on Wednesday in Forest Village, Eersteriver.

All priority - and Catalytic projects across the province are at various stages of planning and implementation and are making steady progress.

We have a set of criteria, where we're prioritising:

The elderly;

People with disabilities;

Backyard dwellers and

Those who have been the longest on the waiting list (15 years and longer).

At the end of June 2019, I issued an executive directive to all municipalities that henceforth, backyard dwellers must also be a priority. This means, whenever we identify beneficiaries from the housing waiting lists, for all Greenfield projects, backyarders must be prioritised, as we will work on a 50/50 split within the other criteria.

One of the first municipalities to implement this has been Cape Agulhas with their Bredasdorp project. Of the 158 housing opportunities for qualifying beneficiaries, 60% are backyard dwellers.

In an effort to ensure we have a comprehensive and credible database of all those who require assistance from Government, we commenced with a weekend registration and verification drive in October. The rollout in all non-Metro Municipalities, saw more than 8 500 people visiting the venues to either register for the first time or verify and update their details on the Housing Demand Database (HDD).

While we were rolling the drive out in the Cape Metro, it ended abruptly due to the alert level-5 regulations. We are pleased with the response from the public in the first three drives across the Cape Metro, as 10 253 attended. The drive will immediately commence once the regulation allows.

As an alternative and as a firm believer in technology and utilising it optimally, we launched the WCGApp, so that citizens could easily access information on government housing assistance. One of the biggest benefits of the App is that residents are no longer required to visit any of their housing offices to register for a housing opportunity or update their details, as this can be done in the comfort of their homes. This WCGApp is available on both the Google Playstore and iOS platforms for immediate download.

We've continually encouraged the use of Alternative Building Technology (ABT's), as it is vital in sustainable development. In Mossel Bay, we currently have the Yakhindlu PHP project where only ABT's are being used. Units are built at a cheaper rate; the cost of electricity will be less, and it holds long term benefits for the environment.

During my engagement with the banking sector, they indicated their appetite for ABT's and a willingness to support these types of initiatives. I'm also encouraged by some municipalities that have indicated their interest in adopting ABT's, particularly since it holds various benefits.

The ABT will also be seen in our Transitional Residential Units (TRU's) that are earmarked in Permanent Residential Areas (PRA's) in response to re-blocking DuNoon and Greater Kosovo as part of the Rapid Informal Settlement Support and Upgrade Programme (RISSUP).

As challenging as the current crisis is, it has presented us with an opportunity to review governance across the board. Policy, budgetary and by-law amendments, particularly at national and local government levels, are urgently required if we are going to effectively and speedily address the needs of our people.

My strategic aim for the entire term, is to ensure mobility and spatial transformation, by promoting social inclusion through the development of integrated, resilient, safe and sustainable human settlements in an open society.

More From: Govt of SA

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