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Thursday Nov 25, 2010

Housing projects stalled due to lack of services

Problems with the provision of bulk infrastructure are stifling housing delivery across the country, says Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale.

And there was little his department could do to solve the problem itself as the responsibility for "critical large-scale bulk infrastructure projects" lay with several other departments and spheres of government.

Yesterday, Sexwale told Parliament's human settlements oversight committee: "When all is said and done, the most serious threat, a real risk, is the challenge of providing bulk infrastructure to human settlements projects."

He said there could be no viable or sustainable human settlements without the urgent rollout of large-scale electrification projects and the construction of new water treatment and sewage processing plants, including pipelines to bring fresh and clean water to communities.

"We cannot continue to dot the landscape with top structures without providing bulk services below the ground. In addition, there is the added need to provide roads, stormwater drainage and streetlights."

Housing developments south of Johannesburg had almost come to a standstill due, essentially, to the lack of a sewerage plant, the estimated cost of which would be more than R3 billion. The new Lufhereng project of 24 000 housing units was being negatively affected, he said.

Another major project, Kornubia, in KwaZulu-Natal, where 50 000 houses were planned, was being hamstrung by the lack of bulk infrastructure.

In the Eastern Cape, the |5 000-unit Thornhill project in Port Alfred, which was launched in April, was also at risk. Sexwale said that, while 500 units had been completed, the lack of bulk services like a desalination plant to treat sea water, a plant to clean river water or construction of a new dam was delaying the rollout of the remaining 4 500 homes.

In Limpopo, while electricity would be readily available for the "potential" new town to be built in Lephalale around the new Medupi mega power station, there were serious challenges with other bulk infrastructure services.

"Overall, rural projects countrywide have got no bulk services to speak of.

"What is even more onerous is that the mandates for the rollout of these critical large-scale bulk infrastructure projects do not lie with the Human Settlements ministry," Sexwale said.

A senior official in the department said responsibility for bulk infrastructure lay with various departments and spheres of government.

"Thus the need for a more integrated, planned and co-ordinated approach across relevant national departments. Hence, as we have reported, the president is seized with the initiative to co-ordinate a special presidential co-ordinating committee on human settlements," Sexwale told MPs.

Only last week, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan revealed that the provinces had spent 33 percent of their combined capital budgets at the mid-term mark of this financial year (September 30), a decline of 23.5 percent when compared to the same period in 2009/10.

Gordhan said spending levels by provinces varied, the lowest being the Free State at 26.7 percent and KwaZulu-Natal at 35 percent, while the highest spenders were the Northern Cape at 54.2 percent and Limpopo at 46.8 percent.

Project management would remain a critical issue even if the bulk infrastructure was in place, Sexwale said.

He promised the MPs that his department was working hard to ensure that by the end of the financial year, and also by the end of the term, no rollovers should be experienced because of capacity problems.

Cape Times




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