Hon Deputy Speaker, hon Ministers, hon Deputy Ministers, hon members and hon guests, the portfolio committee undertook a fact- finding oversight mission on the events that led to the demolition of houses in Lenasia. It is worth noting that the committee heard of the demolition of houses via the media, and therefore had to receive first-hand information from the Gauteng provincial department as well as the affected individuals.
The portfolio committee had an opportunity to meet with the provincial department of local government and housing, Gauteng legislature's Standing Committee on Human Settlements, as well as the community members. It is important to register that the tendency of selling state land illegally is a long-standing issue in this area of the province, beginning back in 2002.
In 2010 two of the syndicates were arrested while the third suspect was arrested in June 2011. Furthermore, one of the accused who was on trial in the five cases was an employee of the City of Johannesburg Municipality. When the department instituted the evictions, the illegal occupants secured an interim court order, preventing the department from demolishing their houses. In March 2011, the court ordered that the matter be referred for mediation in order for the applicants to explain how they acquired the properties. The outcome of the mediation was that there should be no further illegal construction taking place. However, the community members continued building illegally, hence the department resorted to demolishing the illegally constructed houses.
The community acknowledged the fact that the department was dealing with a complex matter that required appropriate action in order to ensure that both government and the citizens were not compromised. The portfolio committee condemned illegal land invasions in the strongest manner and observed the following.
Firstly, representatives from both the national and provincial legislatures agreed that there were policy gaps in terms of the regulatory framework as well as the lack of commitment by government in implementing the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act, PIE, Act 19 of 1995, as amended, as well as the lack of applicable bylaws.
Secondly, government takes too long to respond to land invasion-related circumstances. Thirdly, there is a lack of intergovernmental relations and co-operative governance, as well as the provision of support mechanisms by the national and provincial governments to the local government in order to prevent the illegal occupation or such invasions.
Fourthly, the individual community members were willing to come to the department for information, as they found themselves being the victims of the circumstances. However, they were threatened by the syndicate leaders.
Fifthly, the houses were built illegally on the land that belongs to the department and therefore people should not be the owners of those houses until the matter is resolved.
Sixthly, the community illegally connected water and electricity. This was done in collusion with officials from City Power and Johannesburg Water. The illegal connections cost the department an average amount of R100 000 per annum in terms of billing by the municipality.
Lastly, government takes too long to develop, even areas where townships have been registered and land has already been serviced.
At the first meeting it was recommended that the Minister should intervene and provide necessary support to the provincial department and ensure that the provincial department carries out the following. Firstly, enforce the PIE Act on newly constructed houses, after the meeting that was held between the community as well as the department.
Secondly, stop the demolition of already built houses and begin to engage with the community members.
Thirdly, address the issues of syndicates through law enforcement agencies and the arrest of suspects.
Fourthly, assist the community as well as the municipality with resources such as security to guard the vacant stands, including the demolished houses;
Fifthly, conduct individual profiling of the people affected, by checking their financial status, as this would assist in identifying who qualifies for rental housing or state subsidies and who should be assisted accordingly.
Lastly, delegate an official dedicated to work with the community on this matter.
On 1 February 2013 the portfolio committee undertook a follow-up visit to determine the progress that had been made after the oversight visit undertaken in November 2012. The portfolio committee would like to express its appreciation for the work done by the Gauteng department of local government and housing together with the national Department of Human Settlements, in trying to resolve this complex matter in such a short period of time.
With regard to progress this far, the Minister convened a meeting with the MEC for local government and housing and further undertook an oversight visit to Lenasia Extension 13 and Lenasia South. Following the meeting of the Minister, the following intervention measures were agreed upon.
Firstly, the national department should establish a Special Lenasia Intervention Team, Split, comprising the Minister of Human Settlements, the MEC for local government and housing, the SA Human Rights Commission, the Legal Resource Centre, members of the Gauteng housing portfolio committee, the member of the mayoral committee, MMC, for the City of Johannesburg, ward councillors, representatives of the illegal land occupiers, representatives of the legal residents in both Extension 13 and 4, as well as the officials from the national and provincial departments.
Secondly, a meeting should be convened and all the role players should interrogate various options that can be implemented as possible solutions to resolve the Lenasia matter.
Lastly, the intervention team should report back to the Minister on the various options and possible solutions that they managed to discuss.
The portfolio committee also appreciates the intervention framework that emanated from the Split. A project framework was developed that will address the implementation of the various solutions identified to deal with the land invasion. This framework has encompassed broad proposals coming from the SAHRC, Lenasia South Extension 3 and 13, and the Ennerdale and Lawley Concerned Association. The framework proposes the following.
Firstly, all affected people must come forward and present themselves and their details so that the department can assist them, based on their individual circumstances.
Secondly, the Split will conduct a joint auditing of all the properties identified and owned by the department in order to get full details about the status of each stand.
Thirdly, the department will identify different categories of properties, that is size, location, etc, in order to determine what type of construction can be recommended for each stand.
Lastly, fully developed properties and occupancy thereof will be identified and occupants' details as well as waiting lists of beneficiaries will be recorded.
The committee would also like to commend the fact that the National Home Builders Registration Council, NHBRC, has been roped in to conduct the quality assurance on houses that have been built. This is mainly to verify the following.
Firstly, as to whether or not building plans were submitted and approved by the relevant authorities.
Secondly, to check the quality of the buildings that have been erected in order to ascertain if there is compliance with national norms and standards as prescribed in the various government policies and prescripts.
Lastly, to identify structures or houses of poor workmanship, and make determinations of what must be done with each structure based on principles of various policies and legal prescripts.
Of critical importance - amongst the recommendations made by the committee on its oversight visit - is that the department will appoint evaluators to evaluate all stands where construction of houses has already taken place and determine the market value for each stand, to guide the value to be paid by qualifying households and beneficiaries. This will include stands that are now fully developed and occupied. Furthermore, they will identify and initiate a process of subdividing properties that may be too large to be used by one beneficiary. This also includes large stands.
The department informed the committee that they are working closely with ... [Time expired.]
There was no debate.