Successful housing development

The North West province has made great strides in addressing the backlog of adequate housing in a region marked by predominantly rural settlements.

The province's human settlements department scooped numerous awards last year in the national Govern Mbeki awards that recognises excellence in accelerating the eradication of informal settlements.

The province was acknowledged as the best performing province in this regard, as well as for having the best women contractor of the year and the best People's Housing Project.

In her State of the Province address, Premier Thandi Modise reported that more than 73 000 households have benefitted from the human settlements programme since the 2009/10 financial year.

"We are making a great difference in the lives of many people who have been waiting for years to get houses," she said.

"The provision of shelter to our people is an obligation that we will continue to realise without any excuse. The programme of giving our people houses has proven to be one of the most fundamental interventions in the history of rolling out services to our people."

MEC for Human Settlements, Public Safety and Liaison Nono Maloyi ascribed the success of delivery on this front to proper planning and the premier's vision for improving the lives of the people.

"It's about playing political oversight over the administration," he said.

"What I said when I arrived as MEC in the department is that I'm not going to interfere in administrative matters, but I want a report every Tuesday on all matters related to human settlements.

"What that does is make them work hard because they know they need to report."

He explains that this approach is predicated in the ANC philosophy of implementing its manifesto of improving the lives of ordinary South Africans, and the need to report back regularly into its structures on progress.

This is an approach that has been followed steadfastly by Modise, he said.

"The premier is passionate about this province and passionate about us bettering the lives of the people of the province. When we come to the executive council, we don't have an option: we have to report."

He added that she has an unerring focus on delivery, placing her cabinet on notice that failure to do so would have consequences.

The MEC said the level of reporting and monitoring of projects extends to the contractors appointed by the province to deliver housing.

He established a developers forum to facilitate this, which meets quarterly to provide accountability of progress on all projects.

"So everybody is on board. I have said to those developers: whether you like it or not, you are part of my staff, so you are accountable to me and if you fail I must act against you. So they are doing wonders."

This direct management of construction projects, he said, has led to vastly improved quality of housing in the province.

The progress made does not mean the province is without its challenges, said Maloyi.

One of the biggest is the vastly differing income levels spanning developed and rural areas.

This is exhibited most starkly in mining towns, for example, where residents earn more than the R3 500 a month threshold to qualify for an RDP house.

The problem is also evident in cities such as Rustenburg where salaries are higher, but still not high enough to qualify for a bond.

This has led to the construction of houses that are to be leased by the province to the former group, while it has also introduced the Finance-linked Individual Subsidy Programme to help those earning up to R15 000 a month to buy a house.

One of department's priorities is to overcome the disparate distribution of the province's communities, many of which lie some distance from developed centres.

This approach is directed by President Jacob Zuma's call to introduce human settlement development that focuses on building accommodation closer to places of work, but also include other amenities such as clinics, schools, churches and recreational facilities.

Maloyi said that while planning is central to his department's work, so is flexibility. He explained that if, for example, a development in a particular community is found to be in excess of the current demand or affordability, the excess stock is rather allocated to another area in need.

"We think we have covered each and every category of our people who are in need. The only thing that remains a challenge is the budget we received … because government allocates budget, so unfortunately addressing the backlog is taking time. But we are getting there," he said.

This article forms part of the supplement paid for by the North West office of the Premier. Contents and photographs were supplied and signed off by the ofiice