City to Buy, Expropriate Land for Housing

south africa land reform

The eThekwini Municipality has outlined an ambitious plan to eradicate its 40-year housing backlog by purchasing more than 700 plots of land across Durban to hand over to disadvantaged people.

According to the report by the municipality, it would take up to 40 years to clear the housing backlog in the eThekwini region.

The city said the land would be made available for people to build their own homes, as opposed to waiting for low-cost housing to be provided by the government.

It said the project aimed to address the shortage of accommodation for people living in informal settlements and to bring an end to land invasions.

Several areas in KwaZulu-Natal have recently been hit by land invasions, with the most recent attempt at the New Germany game reserve.

eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede welcomed the report, saying she believed communities would approve of the plan.

However opposition parties and shack dwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo questioned the feasibility of the project and how it would be implemented.

The plan for the project, which was presented in a report compiled by the city’s Human Settlement and Infrastructure Unit before Exco yesterday, said 700 plots of land in areas including Isipingo, Buffelsdraai, Cliffdale, Myezi and Cato Manor had been identified for acquisition.

The unit requested authorisation to acquire the properties by process of a private treaty or, if necessary, expropriation. Chairperson of the Human Settlements and Infrastructure Committee Mondli Mthembu said the lack of land for housing resulted in a number of land invasions taking place throughout the city.

“We realised that we should not promise our people RDP houses, but rather give them the serviced sites and have them build their own houses. They will probably build even better houses,” he said.

He said the resolution to acquire the land was taken on the basis that “we want to maximise access to land”.

“The strategic objective of these land acquisitions is to address the shortage of accommodation for people living within informal settlements and to address the housing backlog.”

The report stated that the Real Estate and Human Settlement units would enter into negotiations with the respective property owners for the acquisition or expropriation of the land.

Once this had been undertaken, the units would obtain the required municipal and administrative approvals in respect of each property, subject to prescreening and feasibility studies.

The acquisition of the properties would be funded through Urban Settlements Development Grant funding.

Thereafter, subject to the approval of the Bid Adjudication Committee, the heads of the Real Estate and Human Settlements units would be authorised to effect the transfer of the properties to the municipality. Where necessary, the city would seek consent from the MEC for Human Settlements to start the land expropriation process.

However, Abahlali president Sbu Zikode said he did not believe the city could commit itself to such a project and brushed it off as politicking.

Zikode said the housing backlog exceeded 400 000 people and the city’s plan to eradicate the backlog would take years.

“The Department of Human Settlements (provincial) has already told us that with the current budget, it could take up to 60 years to house everyone. It is really reckless and irresponsible for the municipality to make such an announcement and I will warn them against politicking,” Zikode said.

He said he was surprised that the municipality was dealing with such a report when shack dwellers were not consulted.

“If they were really concerned about the housing situation, they would engage us and the people who are actually living in the shacks. They are just adding to this vicious cycle that has seen many people being promised houses but who are still living in shacks.” Zikode said.

The IFP’s Mdu Nkosi said the acquiring of land was a good idea, but history had shown that the ANC in eThekwini was unable to see a project through to its end. He said that a decade ago, the city would build at least 15 000 houses a year, but this had now dropped to building 4 000 houses a year.

Nkosi said that he believed that even in 10 years, there would be no houses built on the sites identified in the report.

“The problem is that the ANC in eThekwini is channelling the money to create events and platforms for the ANC to speak. They are neglecting core services,” he said.

The DA’s Heinz de Boer said he appreciated the report, but “it might just be pie in the sky”. He described the report as “extremely ambitious” and accused the city of being “relatively toothless” when it came to acquiring property.

“I am not saying don’t try, but it is simply not attainable,” he said.

LRC Guest Contributor – Thabiso Mbhense

Thabiso Mbhense

Thabiso Mbhense is an Attorney currently employed by Legal Resources Centre. He holds Baccalaureus Iuris (B Iuris) Degree and Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from University of KwaZulu Natal. He was employed as a candidate attorney by University of Kwa-Zulu Natal Law Clinic in 2003. When he was employed as a candidate attorney he was specialising in cases involving land reform, eviction in rural areas, domestic violence, child maintenance, divorce, labour, family matters, curator bonis and curator ad litem applications.

He was admitted as an attorney in 2005. He is currently specialising in cases involving rural and urban evictions, land reform, housing, provision of basic services, upgrading of informal settlements, acquisition of land and land claims.

He has appeared in the Magistrates’ Court, High Court, Land Claims Court, CCMA and Supreme Court of Appeal.

Inspired by our history, the Constitution and international human rights standards, the LRC is committed to a fully democratic society based on the principle of substantive equality. The LRC seeks to ensure that the principles, rights and responsibilities enshrined in our national Constitution are respected, promoted, protected and fulfilled.