Cape Town - Housing activists are fuming over a lack of details regarding the upgrade of informal settlements by Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi in her budget speech.
Ndifuna Ukwazi said it would mean millions of people living in deplorable conditions have been left without any plan. This, the organisations said, was coupled to the minister’s cynical categorisation of these areas as “undevelopable” and “illegal”.
The organisation also criticised the minister’s statements in relation to the scale of informal settlements on “unsuitable land”, arguing that this was unsubstantiated by any evidence as assessments by various municipalities indicated that many informal settlements could be upgraded.
During her speech, Kubayi indicated the baseline evaluation done by her department confirmed there were 2 700 informal settlements in the country, with the majority of them located on unsuitable land. She said these were prone to housing emergencies.
“I have been engaging many communities in informal settlements, and a first priority is to discourage illegal occupation of land and request municipalities to ensure that we don’t allow any more illegal occupation of land.
“This illegal occupation of land denies us an opportunity to plan and implement the human settlements programme properly. Moreover, these are the areas which have been mainly affected by disasters and lead to loss of life,” she said.
Kubayi said she would issue a ministerial directive in accordance with Section 29 of the HDA Act to authorise the Housing Development Agency to drive interventions on upgrading informal settlements and ensure faster turn-around time in the provision of basic services.
There are 497 established informal settlement areas in the metro with an additional 186 newly unlawfully occupied areas that surfaced during the pandemic.
In its 2022/23 draft budget, the City had set aside R370 million for informal settlement upgrading projects which it said entail enhancing the health and living conditions of residents, installation of underground services and enhancing one-to-one water and sanitation, as well as improving access ways for basic, essential and emergency services.
The City also alluded to the majority of the settlements having been established on unsuitable land, where the installation of bulk services for servicing was not planned.
It said numerous newly established communities were demanding services, but currently it was unable to cater to the unplanned settlements.
Ndifuna Ukwazi‘s executive director, Adi Kumar, said for over a decade the national department had invested in the National Upgrading Support Programme (NUSP), which was disbanded and discontinued earlier this year. Kumar said it wasn’t evident from the budget vote what the achievements of the NUSP were.
“While the concerns around long-term planning and land occupations are clear, the lack of delivery is a huge driver of land occupations. In fact, the evidence that has emerged from metros is that it can take up to 15 years to upgrade informal settlements,” he said.
Kumar said civil society had made numerous submissions regarding informal settlement upgrades and that it was disheartening that the department had not taken propositions forward.
Social Justice Coalition spokesperson Thando George said the increased illegal occupations were a sign that people needed housing. She said this also showed how the government had failed to provide adequate housing through its formalised means.
“People have to find alternative ways of securing houses for themselves. The reasoning from the government that people aren’t on land that is suitable and therefore can’t provide basic services, further shows a lack of budgeting and planning for these services on their end.”
George said even when the government managed to make strides with facilities, it failed to maintain them.