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Tuesday Apr 30, 2013

Durban warned about land invasions

Durban's shack dwellers are becoming impatient at the slow pace of low-cost home building, warning the city that they will continue to occupy land until they are provided with proper housing.

This is according to the shack dwellers' movement, Abahlali Basemjondolo, which was reacting to news that the eThekwini Municipality had built only 2 300 out of 9 500 houses targeted for the 2012/13 financial year.

At a finance and procurement meeting last week, it emerged that the city had spent only 58 percent of its housing budget allocation as at March 31. With the financial year ending in June, the city is unlikely to meet its target of building the remaining houses.

Abahlali staged a rally near the Kennedy Road informal settlement yesterday to air its dissatisfaction with the state of affairs.

Its chairman, Sbu Zikode, said the poor were being left out of the new South Africa.

"We are not free when we still live in slums and shanty towns, when we have no water or electricity," he said.

Zikode also called for the release of the Manase report, which contains the findings of a forensic investigation into the city's finances. He accused the city of hiding corruption which was stopping "us from getting houses and being truly free".

The DA's housing spokesman in KwaZulu-Natal, George Mari, said the municipality had failed to deliver on its housing undertaking despite having lowered its targets. "The rate of delivery was (initially) 16 000 houses," he said. "It fell over the years but they still can't meet their targets."

Mari said the absence of leadership in the city's housing department was at the heart of the housing crisis.

He said since the resignation of housing head Cogi Pather and the deputy city manager for procurement and infrastructure, Derek Naidoo, "the department is not capacitated enough to meet its targets". The two were among those named in the damning Manase report.

Mari said the void created by the departures of Pather and Naidoo needed to be filled urgently. He also criticised the city's housing system, calling it flawed. "Planning was not done well enough in advance. For example, the procurement of land could be done earlier to curb delays," he said.

The spokesman for KZN Department of Human Settlements, Mbulelo Baloyi, agreed that the Manase report had had an impact on the city's delivery of houses.

"The Manase report came down heavy on section 36 (of the municipality's supply chain management policy)," he said. "This section allows for deviation from procurement processes in case of an emergency, among other circumstances."

Baloyi said the municipality was now "very cautious" despite the provincial housing department not seeing "anything wrong with Section 36. As long as everything was above board, section 36 circumvents delays and expedites the process of delivery".

He added that more than 400 of the province's 600 informal settlements were in eThekwini. "The city is faced with a heavy housing burden which it may not meet in the current financial year."

The housing budget was allocated based on the city's targets for the year, Baloyi said, adding that should the city not meet its target, a recovery plan would have to be submitted detailing how "they are going to satisfy the intention of the allocated funds".

He said it was possible for projects to overlap into the following financial year, but as far as the department was concerned, there could be no compromise on service delivery because there were beneficiaries awaiting houses.

Daily News


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