We’ve failed shack dwellers in CT: Dept

Image Notes from the House

Delivery of housing in Cape Town’s informal settlements because of intergovernmental lack of cooperation. The Department of Human Settlements has admitted in Parliament that it has largely failed the residents of Cape Town’s informal settlements, especially when it comes to service delivery.

The Portfolio Committee also heard that R100 million set aside for upgrading basic services in these areas had not been spent.

The main problem, according to the Director-General of the Department, Mbulelo Tshangana, was a breakdown in cooperation between national and provincial human settlement departments and the local metros and municipalities. Tshangana conceded that the three levels of government had not worked together to utilise the funding that had been made available for the upgrading of informal settlements. South Africa currently has more than 2,700 informal settlements throughout the country.

This was announced at a department report back to Parliament’s portfolio committee on human settlements on progress made in upgrading informal settlements.

“I must admit we didn’t perform well,” said Tshangana. He told the committee that Ethekwini (Durban) and the City of Cape Town had failed to meet their targets.

South Africa currently has more than 2,700 informal settlements throughout the country, and the Department of Human Settlements does not see any prospect of this figure coming down anytime soon.

“We don’t see much of a reduction in informal settlements,” said Johan Wallis, the Deputy Director for Informal Settlements Delivery Framework within the Department.

His report provided data from the 1996, 2001 and 2011 censuses, which showed that numbers of informal settlements increased in the Western Cape, North West and Northern Cape, while other provinces had seen a decrease in the number of informal settlements. Wallis did not offer an explanation for this but said the department is awaiting the results of the most recent census to track any changes.

He also indicated that Cabinet had requested more details on South Africa’s informal settlements more than a year ago, but nothing has been released. Committee Chairperson Nocawe Mafu confirmed that no results had been made available and she did not know if the research had been done.

Mafu pointed out that no authority takes responsibility for informal settlements. When Parliament conducts oversight visits, no one from provincial departments of human settlements accompanies the Committee. “Nobody owns up to these challenges at these programmes,” Mafu said.

Speaking to GroundUp/Notes from the House she confirmed that in some areas, grant allocations to metros had not been fully or partially utilised, but this led to disputes between national, provincial and municipal/metro structures.

“We don’t understand why they do that,” Mafu said, questioning why national, provincial and municipal structures do not work together to ensure these areas are upgraded, since they are inter-linked.

Wallis then pointed out that there was little evidence of the National Upgrading Support Programmes (NUSP) in Annual Provincial Business Plans and municipal Built Environment Performance Plans. NUSP was designed to support the National Department of Human Settlement upgrade informal settlements in the country.

The Department’s NUSP programme, according to Wallis, had 350 feasibility studies underway in 2017/2018. He said NUSP had completed 1,200 assessments and had more than 850 upgrading plans for 92 municipalities.

Suné Payne writes for GroundUp and Notes from the House. This article first appeared in GroundUp News.

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