Illegal land invasion delays Human Settlements delivery for most vulnerable
Opinion Editorial by Western Cape Minister of Human Settlements, Tertuis Simmers
From the outset of my tenure as the Western Cape Minister of Human Settlements, I’ve worked tirelessly to accelerate the delivery of housing opportunities, particularly for the most vulnerable in our society who need the support of government to improve the quality and dignity of their lives.
It is for this reason that I immediately set four key drivers to address the housing need in our province:
- Radical Acceleration of Housing Opportunities
- Radical Implementation of Innovative Solutions
- An Integrated Approach to Human Settlements, and
- Radical Empowerment and Job Creation
Knowing that it takes in excess of 1 500 days for a brand-new housing project to be completed to the point of handover to beneficiaries, we have put a plan in place to avoid all unnecessary delays on our side. This process includes working smartly to obtain all the relevant and required statutory approvals, which amongst others consist of town planning, environmental impact studies, land surveying, engineering services and indeed the process of building the units.
But there is only so much that we can do as the Western Cape Human Settlements Department to ensure that projects run smoothly.
The speed of our progress is also in the hands of our citizens.
The moment that land earmarked for housing development is illegally invaded, it can delay our process to deliver housing opportunities by 3 months to 5 years, and in rare instances even longer. This is so because it often requires lengthy and expensive litigation to remove the illegal invaders – funded from the very money which we need and want to spend on delivering units. Every cent wasted on litigation means a cent less toward delivery to our law-abiding citizens.
Perversely and most problematically, when land is invaded, we are also required to divert our spend away from those who’ve waited patiently for an opportunity, toward those who’ve illegally created new informal settlements, as they demand services, such as water, sanitation and electricity. Should this not be provided, further disruptive and damaging protests occur, some of which turn violent and threaten communities.
We cannot have the elderly, people who are living with disabilities, backyard dwellers and those who’ve been on the housing waiting list for 15 years or longer, being robbed of their rightful housing opportunities by criminal and self-serving land invaders who are demanding to be assisted before law-abiding citizens who’ve waited far longer.
This will never be acceptable nor condoned.
It is critical that all stakeholders, including the different spheres of government and especially our national law enforcement agencies, work together in ensuring that illegal land invaders are swiftly removed, so that we can get on with the development of opportunities for the most vulnerable in our society. We can only start addressing the housing backlog, which is currently at almost 600 000 in the Western Cape, if we all work together to end this criminal behavior.
I implore our communities to work with government and to work through government in respect of their housing needs.
Those with a genuine housing need must ensure that they are registered on the housing demand database and if they are, to verify and update their details. In addition to this, they should also engage the relevant structures such as Project Steering Committees (PSC’s) and Ward Councillors to receive factual information, and not allow so-called community leaders to mislead them.
This will only lead to disappointment at the hands of dubious individuals who do not have their best interests at heart. These individuals seek to disrupt and break our communities down by offering false promises and inaccurate information. Government has no such vested interest – we are there to uplift and serve you.
As the Western Cape Government, we remain committed to accelerating human settlement delivery, while promoting social inclusion through the development of integrated, resilient, safe and sustainable human settlements in an open opportunity society.