Human settlements minister, mayor face off over Khayelitsha service delivery responsibilities

A file picture of a Khayelitsha resident sweeping an overflow of brown sewage in the middle of the street with a broom.

Khayelitsha resident Sheila Maqwentshu is cleaning sewage in front of her Educare centre – which she had to close because of sewer blockages in the area. File Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 16, 2023


Cape Town - A row has broken out between Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis and Human Settlements Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi over her plan to give the Housing Development Agency (HDA) sole responsibility for the delivery of basic services to informal settlements in Khayelitsha.

Minister Kubayi announced the move on Thursday last week after saying she was disappointed with the lack of progress in the provision of services such as water and sanitation in 16 informal settlements in Khayelitsha.

She said despite “several meetings” between herself, the City and representatives of these informal settlements, the commitments for improved living conditions made by the City had not yet been fulfilled.

Kubayi said in March 2023, she transferred R111 million to the City to speed up service delivery interventions.

She said these funds had been specifically ring-fenced to provide the services for the 16 informal settlements and to address the Prasa railway line relocations, after the City said it had no funds.

Kubayi said: “The City has, however, since indicated it would be difficult to spend the funds provided by the department, citing it was almost the end of the financial year.

“I cannot work with excuses while our people are suffering. I am frustrated and today I am announcing that if they can’t do it then the agency of Human Settlements, the HDA, will.”

Human Settlements Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi. Picture: Mwangi Githahu/Cape Argus
Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

She said that while some work had been done, the City had not complied with the national standard of 1:5 ratio for the provision of container toilets.

Community representatives had told Kubayi that in some areas, the ratio was as high as 1:15 – meaning 15 families used one ablution facility.

Kubayi said: “National policy is not an option; it is the standard, and the City must comply with it. We are exposing our people to all sorts of health challenges.”

In a statement, mayor Hill-Lewis defended the City against the minister and said contrary to Kubayi’s assertions, the City had already allocated funds for upgrades to the 16 informal settlements.

He said planning and work to service these settlements was either already complete, under way or imminent and Minister Kubayi’s remarks were “inaccurate and unhelpful.”

Hill-Lewis said: “The City is pleased with the unexpected allocation of R111m from the national Department of Human Settlements but, to be spent lawfully, it must be accompanied with National Treasury approval.”

Mayor Hill-Lewis said: “It would be impossible for the City to spend the R111 million received on March 30 in the remaining weeks of our financial year, ending in June 2023, due to the time required to meet planning and procurement regulations.”

He said if the Treasury had not granted a roll-over, it would seem the minister was trying to publicly pressure the City into spending unlawfully.

“This kind of approach to public spending is why local government finances in the rest of South Africa are in such a mess. The City will resist these pressures and make sure that every rand we spend is done so lawfully,” Hill-Lewis said.

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