Opinionista Ina Cilliers 21 May 2018

Makhura’s land ‘game changer’ comes straight out of the DA playbook

Premier David Makhura’s housing plan to identify unused parcels of government land to give to worthy housing beneficiaries, including title deeds, is simply and radically DA policy.

Every now and then, among the prevailing taxonomy of our political discourse, a phrase that is strangely juxtaposed will jump right off the page to bite you on the nose.

This happened to me recently when I read an “analysis” by Stephen Grootes on the Gauteng government’s housing policy.

Seeing the words “game changer” next to an ANC premier’s name warranted my attention.

The phrase became part of the Democratic Alliance’s governance language ever since Helen Zille’s Western Cape SOPA in February 2015, when she announced a series of “game changers” that would expand economic opportunities for the people of the province.

More significantly, Premier Makhura’s housing plan (Grootes referred to it as simple and radical) to identify unused parcels of government land to give to worthy housing beneficiaries, including title deeds, is simply and radically, DA policy.

DA Housing Policy states:

We believe that public housing options should make greater use of the energies and commitment of the poor, rather than seeing them as passive recipients. Previous delivery, while statistically impressive, has failed to lay a solid foundation for a more inclusive society and has tended to trap the poor in new urban ghettos far from work opportunities and in (limited) possession of decaying properties for which there is only the most limited market.

Second, human settlements policy cannot be separated from its immediate and related context, in particular issues of urban form (densification) and economic opportunity.

The DA envisages a future in which we have overcome the spatial legacy of apartheid, where the urban poor live closer to work opportunities, where they regard their properties as the fruits of their own labour rather than gifts from the state, where amenities such as schools and clinics are readily accessible, and where communities are characterised by a mix of incomes and housing types.

The planned densification of urban areas will be an aspect of all human settlements developments and public transport will be oriented towards servicing these.

Third, housing policy must deliver a spectrum of support options for different parts of the housing market. By encouraging market-based solutions for housing provision in so-called “gap markets” and for self-help initiatives, state resources can be freed up to service the poorest and most vulnerable.

Differentiated housing lists will also allow DA governments to meet the needs of specific beneficiary groups through the appropriate mix of fully subsidised housing, self-help initiatives, in-situ upgrades, site-and-service schemes and social housing.

The use of flexible subsidies will allow users more choice in the manner in which their housing needs are being met.

Regarding the issue of private property rights:

Where we govern the DA will continue to prioritise the issuing of title deeds to ensure that state subsidised homes can be become real economic assets.”

It’s a pity that an article that promises an analysis did not warrant a basic literary review.

It gets even more bizarre when Grootes takes a swipe at DA Mayor Herman Mashaba. He writes:

Joburg’s Herman Mashaba must be wincing. In his previous life he was the chairman of the Free Market Foundation. Land tenure has been one of the major planks of their policy position for years. Now, he either has to roll with the punch or look inconsistent. Painful.”

The DA’s track record in Johannesburg and Tshwane reveals how DA Mayors “roll” – since 2016 a total of 8,878 title deeds have been handed over to owners.

In Tswhane 4,417, and in Johannesburg 4,461, and counting.

The principle is indeed simple and Grootes is correct – private property rights is a basic bedrock of true personal freedom and indeed an elegant solution to rampant populism.

But the ANC remains conflicted and confused.

While the premier is promoting private property rights, his cabinet is going in a different direction. During a debate in the Legislature on the same day the article appeared, MEC Faith Mazibuko assured the House that the ANC will expropriate land without compensation. In fact, a parliamentary answer reveals that there is not even one beneficiary of farmland in Gauteng today who has title to his/her farm.

This insane situation provides impetus to the DA’s plans.

We will continue to advance private property rights rapidly where we govern by giving out title deeds, as we are now the only party in South Africa that believes and advocates that all South Africans are ready to own land and not become government serfs. DM

Ina Cilliers is MPL, DA Shadow MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development

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