Earlier this week, Daily Maverick published an article by Jared Sacks exposing some of the suffering experienced by those seeking adequate housing in the Western Cape. Here, in the interests of debate, is the response from the Housing Development Agency.
The article by Jared Sacks (Daily Maverick, 8 May 2013) provides informative insight into the complexities of low-cost housing initiatives in areas such as the one underway in Joe Slovo informal settlement in Cape Town.
In doing so, however, the article provides just one of the many perspectives which exist on the problems facing the community, and the solutions which have been developed by the various role-players – including local, provincial and national government, the community themselves, and non-governmental organisations.
As the Housing Development Agency (HDA), we have been involved in the Joe Slovo development since the agency was formed in 2009, and would appreciate the opportunity to provide additional context to Jared Sacks’ article – as well as setting the record straight on a number of issues.
- Firstly, it is incorrect to project the HDA as a “successor” to Thubelisha. The HDA is not associated with Thubelisha, nor is it a successor. It is a completely new body, formed under the HDA Act (no 23 of 2008).
- Secondly, it is important to note that the HDA is not an independent agency whose officials operate without responsibility or accountability. Rather, it is an agency of the National Department of Human Settlements and, in the case of Joe Slovo Phase 3 (the current development phase) it acts as project manager on behalf of the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements.
- Thirdly, the housing allocation process is not as random or as subjective as Jared Sacks states: it is based on criteria which have been discussed and agreed with the community and the representatives during months of negotiations. These criteria include giving priority to the elderly or aged, as well as to those who have lived in the area the longest. It is also relative to which zones they live in, with zones 30 and 31 being given preference.
- Fourthly, there is no substantive evidence to back up claims of wrongdoing or corruption in terms of the allocation of houses. The provincial department of human settlements has repeatedly asked the community to provide evidence of wrongdoing, but this has not been forthcoming. It is impossible to act against wrongdoing when there is no evidence to investigate.
Finally, the community dynamics in Joe Slovo are complex and are complicated by the number of structures that profess to represent residents. Historically, there have been three representative structures in Joe Slovo: Intersite, a Task Team, and a Residents’ Committee. Besides this, there is now a newly emergent group calling themselves the Area Committee. One of the key critics of the allocation process in Jared Sacks’ article, Mzimasi Ntwanambi, for example, is a former member of the Task Team. He has now crossed over to the Area Committee.
The events that played out earlier this week, and which are reflected in your article, are a clear demonstration of the tensions between the different representative structures – and of the complexities of providing a housing solution that meets the expectations of all parties.
Kate Shand, Communications, The Housing Development Agency DM
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