Human Settlement Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi and mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis continue to clash over the purchase of the Khayelitsha land where hundreds of families that live along Metrorail's Central Line corridor are expected to be relocated.
The national government and the municipality have been at loggerheads for some time, with the tensions evident during a Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) meeting on Tuesday.
Kubayi confirmed that she had declared a dispute with the City as it allegedly refused to co-operate after it returned R50 million earmarked for land purchase back to the National Treasury.
The only thing we all agreed to is that the Prasa lines have to be operational again. We have agreed there will be an emergency assessment of the land, the Operation Bekela. This will be a temporary solution where some people will be moved there. Hopefully within the next three weeks, this will be achieved. We will have to conduct a community engagement so I’ll have to check the availability of other ministers.
“We had made R 50 million available for the purchase of land as a long term solution.
“We will take all the documentation, minutes of meetings and all the processes we have gone through.
Then write a request to the minister of finance with the supported evidence to show where we are. Then report back to Scopa. We are hoping that the minister of finance will respond positively to our request for funds,” said Kunayi.
She said should this be possible, and they will look at the implementation plan based on the time that money will be with the Housing Development Agency (HDA).
“Then the standing committee will have to resolve the issue of who takes over the land; by law, the land cannot sit with HDA once it’s purchased.
The land must be developed so that people can live there, so it must be handed over either to the City or the province for further development and maintenance.
“Even with the matter of the 16 informal settlements we had to push the City and my frustration is because every time... you sit with communities with nothing to tell them.
“I have not visited those families along the Prasa line because I don’t have answers. I'll waffle over there. So when the mayor says it is not every time that they are not co-operating, it is not the case. I have some examples.
From my side we will do whatever we have to as Human Settlements and we understand the committee's frustration,” she said.
Hill-Lewis said that as per the signed Intergovernmental Protocol agreement, Prasa, and HDA as its appointed agent, are responsible for the relocation, while the City’s role is limited to that of planning authority, and the provision of basic services.
“We have repeatedly and consistently made it clear we will not take responsibility for Prasa’s central line relocation programme, nor the buying of land for another government entity.
They are perfectly capable of buying it themselves, and this process is ongoing via the HDA.
“Of the R111m in unsolicited funding sent to the City by National Human Settlements on the eve of national government’s financial yearend, R61m is being allocated to informal settlements upgrading projects subject to National Treasury approvals.
“The City has further returned the remaining R50m to National Treasury based on the Human Settlements Minister’s desire for this to go towards land acquisition and central line relocations. National Treasury may in turn reallocate this R50 million to the HDA, which had already acquired land for Phase 1 of the relocations at the time of the transfer of funding to the City.
HDA is further in the process of identifying land for Phase 2,” said Hill-Lewis. EFF MP Ntombovuyo Mente said it was unfortunate that the impoverished continued to feel the pain of political heads in contention.
“To be told that the steering committee is effective, I don’t believe that because we are here hearing all these technicalities that could be resolved by an exchange of notes. Now we are seated here watching a competition of who had better facts then who,” she said.
Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said he did not get a sense that beyond the Bekela operation, there was any progress being made.
He proposed that another meeting be conducted in September for updates on the matter.