Lindiwe Sisulu cONSTITUTION

Image via GCIS

National government blasted for sidestepping state-owned land issue

The topic of land redistribution and redirection has been a subject of debate in the Western Cape.

Lindiwe Sisulu cONSTITUTION

Image via GCIS

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Western Cape has criticised the Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Lindiwe Sisulu, for failing to engage with the issue of redistribution of state-owned land.

Western Cape Minister of Human Settlements, Tertuis Simmers, alleges that national government has done little to actively engage with the province’s push towards human settlement development. In a statement issued on Tuesday, Simmers hauled both Sisulu and the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, Patricia de Lille, over the coals for sidestepping the issue.

Five parcels of land destined for human settlement development

Five tracts of state-owned land located in and around Cape Town had been earmarked for social housing projects. These developments, long advocated for by the DA and civil societies alike, have the propensity to ease the City’s dire housing crisis. While the blame of slow progress has been placed at the feet of the Western Cape Government, Simmers says that without national cooperation, the DA’s hands are effectively tied.

Questions surrounding parcels of land in Ysterplaat, Denel, Culemborg, Youngsfield and Wingfield were directed to Sisulu during a National Council of Provinces’ (NCOP) Policy debate in July. Sisulu’s answer was vague:

“We will deal with the matter of the land that belongs to Denel and etcetera. This land has been redirected and is being used.” [sic]

As a result, Simmers continued to push Sisulu for clarity on the matter by way of yet another parliamentary query. This time, Sisulu backtracked on her previous statement:

“None of the mentioned land parcels have been redistributed.”

The Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation refused to provide clarity on the situation in the Western Cape and, instead, pointed to statistics regarding the  controversial land reform project. Sisulu said:

“… 2037 hectares of nationally held public land, including state owned enterprises land, has been identified for release for human settlements development purposes.

Release of nationally held public land is currently coordinated by the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Land Reform and the release of prioritised state owned land parcels is at advanced stages. At an opportune time the IMC will report on the work it has undertaken.”

Developments could house up to 93 000 people

While Simmers confirmed his disappointment in Sisulu’s vague response, he added that the land redirected for human settlement development has the propensity to house close to a hundred thousand people, saying:

“I’m disappointed in Minister Sisulu’s vague response. She had the opportunity to clarify her statement, but failed to do so. It seems as if there is a reluctance to utilise the land for human settlement development.

She could’ve taken the people of the Western Cape into her confidence by announcing that these five pieces of well-located land have been redirected for human settlement development.

I’m however looking forward to engaging Minister Sisulu about the utilisation of this nationally owned land, as it’s been estimated that it could yield up to 93 000 housing opportunities. It is also ideally located close to the CBD, transport and economic opportunities.”