Human Settlements Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane has appointed new boards to the embattled housing entities under her portfolio in a bid to try to rebuild their technical and administrative capacity.
This comes after a three-month assessment found that the inability of the entities to deliver on their mandate — because of infighting and loss of skills — had contributed to the failure to complete nearly 1.9-million low-cost houses since 2019.
Kubayi-Ngubane has effectively cleared out the board chairperson and members — including ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini — appointed by her predecessor Lindiwe Sisulu, who sacked boards across human settlements and water and sanitation after she took over the portfolio in 2018.
The appointment of Dlamini as chairperson of the interim Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA) and those of key Sisulu allies in the Housing Development Agency (HDA) and other entities sparked claims that she was funding her campaign for the ANC presidency in 2022 by appointing people who would be central to it.
Sisulu has consistently denied the allegations.
Kubyai-Ngubane appointed totally new boards at the Social Housing Regulatory Authority, the Housing Development Agency, the Community Scheme Ombud Service, the Property Practitioners Regulatory Authority and the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC), favouring candidates with a background in the sector — or finance — ahead of political nominees. The appointments were confirmed by the cabinet last week.
Accountant and auditor Nomusa Mufamadi has been appointed as the board chair at the National Home Builders Registration Council and Dr Tshilidzi Ratshitanga, founder of the New Cities New Economies Group, has been appointed board chairperson at the Housing Development Agency.
At the Social Housing Regulatory Authority, Busisiwe Nzo, a quantity surveyor since 1995 who has been involved in major projects including the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium and who has been a council member of the authority, takes over as board chairperson.
Kubayi-Ngubane said nominations will also be invited for the board of the National Housing Finance Corporation — which is in the process of becoming a human settlement bank — to complete the process.
The minister said she had earlier placed the Housing Development Agency and the National Home Builders Registration Council under administration because of institutional collapse.
Several tenders for emergency housing issued by the Housing Development Agency during the early days of the Covid-19 lockdown are being probed by the Special Investigating Unit, which has already found that a R15-million tender for tin shacks built in Limpopo was fraudulent.
Kubayi-Ngubane said she had been “shaken and disappointed” by the number of incomplete projects and the poor workmanship of houses by contractors colluding with officials, which endangered the lives of beneficiaries.
She said corruption had resulted in people waiting for 20 years to get houses while others found that their homes started falling apart within two years of moving into them.
“The crimes that are committed in the human settlements sector are not victimless,”’ she said, adding that fixing the entities had been one of her immediate priorities as they were central to housing delivery.
She said she had found them to be “wracked with infighting, rapid and frequent leadership changes, poor governance, corruption and loss of technical capacity.”
“The leadership instability, infighting and loss of technical capacity at both the [Housing Development Agency] and [National Home Builders Registration Council] compelled us to appoint administrators for both institutions,” she said.
New board members would be expected to focus on stabilising the entities by recruiting and deploying capable people with “no compromise on skills requirements, especially specialised technical skills.”
They would be held responsible for the entities achieving clean audits and would have to deal “decisively”’ with malfeasance, wrongdoing and corruption.
Other priorities included securing private sector funding for joint projects to deliver serviced stands and housing; speeding up the title deed process and improving the quality of low-cost housing delivered by the department and its partners.
Meanwhile Sisulu’s planned court challenge to the reinstatement of the Umgeni Water board she dissolved in 2019 has been abandoned.
Sisulu, who is now tourism minister, had indicated that she would go to court to have the decision to reinstate the board, delivered by the Pietermaritzburg high court in October, reviewed and set aside.
However her spokesperson, Mphumzi Zuzile, said last week the challenge had been dropped and Sisulu would “respect and abide by the decision of cabinet” which had confirmed it would accept the court ruling.