Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Nkandla probe ongoing: Presidency

The investigation by the SIU into upgrades to President Jacob Zuma's private home in Nkandla was still ongoing, the presidency said on Tuesday.

The investigation ensued after Zuma signed a proclamation authorising the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to probe the public works department's “prestige project” at Nkandla.

The presidency said the probe was one of 27 which were still ongoing following proclamations signed by the president.

In a report released in March, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found Zuma and his family had unduly benefited from the R246 million spent on security upgrades to his private home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.

Zuma declined to respond to Madonsela's report in full within the required fortnight. Instead he said he would wait for the SIU's findings on the same issue.

The president had undertaken to hand National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete a comprehensive report on the outcome of three separate investigations into state spending on his home by the end of Wednesday last week.

However, on Thursday last week, his spokesman Mac Maharaj said the president needed more information before responding to findings about his home.

- Sapa

We are not short of ambition - Now offering 'Housing opportunities'

Lindiwe Sisulu says her department will provide 1.5 million housing opportunities over the next five years.

This past week, we led the international community in the celebration of the greatest struggle icon of our time, Nelson Mandela. Our government plans and the challenges it seeks to address, are linked with what Mandela stood for and fought against.

Addressing the court at the Rivonia Trial, Mandela said: “We fight against two features, which are the hallmarks of African life in South Africa: poverty and the lack of human dignity.”

If we are to be true in honouring his legacy, we should ask ourselves whether we are doing enough to emulate him in addressing those challenges.

Our people are the best judges. They have endorsed the work we have done in the past 20 years. They resoundingly proclaimed that under the ANC government, South Africa is better than it was 20 years ago. This has also been acknowledged by all the opposition parties.

But it should not blind us to the challenges ahead. As we try to address the seemingly intractable legacy of apartheid, we have had to contend with new challenges – arguably all linked to this ugly past.

We have brought back dignity to the more than 3 million households that have benefited from our pro-poor policies.

The mushrooming of squatter camps and informal settlements that blight our otherwise beautiful landscape are a consequence of land hunger – and economic dispossession spawned by apartheid.

We are not unmindful of the growing sense of desperation and impatience that has been expressed by our people.

Our analysis suggests South Africans are beginning to ask the difficult questions. One of which is, when will the backlog and waiting list of 1994 be eliminated?

Some housing experts are suggesting there must be a cut-off date for young people and we must focus on elders. They also suggest the government consider other forms of assistance to those younger than 60.

Developers, bankers and construction companies expect the minister to intervene to unblock red tape in municipalities.

Taxpayers expect the minister to ensure the houses built with their money are of quality and given to the right owners.

NGOs, in particular those operating in informal settlements, find the government unreasonable and uncaring about the plight of people living in informal settlements.

Low-income earners (R3 500 to R10 000) are struggling to find houses they can purchase within the price range of between R150 000 to R300 000. They cannot find affordable serviced stands to purchase where they can build their own houses. They expect the government to intervene and assist.

Many young people in urban areas who earn less than R5 000 a month are willing to build houses for themselves, but there is a lack of allocated land for them to buy and on which to build.

Town planners and developers believe it is possible for the process of township establishment, re-zoning, environmental impact assessments and approval of building plans to be fast-tracked.

They have specific proposals on how this can be done.

We are not short of ambition. And where ambition is combined with commitment, the sky is the limit.

Our bold measures are aimed at addressing the spatial planning and reversing the geopolitical imagination of apartheid in the next five years.

We must continue to ensure that all South Africans live in decent conditions in suitable settlements that provide inclusive amenities and public transport.

We will provide 1.5 million housing opportunities for qualifying households in urban and rural settlements over the next five years.

These will include fully subsidised houses, affordable low-income houses, social housing units and community residential units.

We will also accelerate the provision of basic services and infrastructure in all existing informal settlements.

Greater co-ordination among key role-players remains a key ingredient for success in this drive to improve living conditions of the 750 000 households found in informal settlements.

We will increase the supply of affordable housing for teachers, nurses, police officers, office workers and many others in the gap market.

Work is at an advanced stage with the Ministry of Public Service and Administration to introduce a programme to help meet the housing needs of public servants.

We will work with financial institutions, private sector organisations, co-operatives and social partners to increase the provision of capital for housing and overcome barriers to affordable housing finance.

Our considered view is that housing development will not be a drag to the economy, but will be a skills generator and a catalyst to many economic opportunities. As the government, we have made a commitment.

As I have indicated above, we can’t do this alone. This is a call for partnership for all society to place all hands on deck.

* Lindiwe Sisulu is the Minister of Human Settlements.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Sanral reprimanded for Lwandle evictions

Cape Town - An inquiry investigating the removal of people and structures from Sanral-owned land in Cape Town reprimanded the company on Tuesday for throwing people out onto the street.

Attorneys for the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) had testified about the circumstances leading to the removals in Lwandle on June 2 and June 3 through an interdict.

Sanral attorney Fiona Bester explained that the “tipping point” for getting the interdict was when the city's human settlements director sent a notice to the regional Sanral office on January 22 stating it had 14 days to rectify the situation or be liable for all legal costs.

Inquiry head, advocate Denzil Potgieter, said Sanral was not a private property owner and could not act as such.

“Sanral is a state-owned company.... so it doesn't behove Sanral to allow itself to be put into a position where it throws a large number of people out on the street in the beginning of winter,” he said.

“Why does it adopt a supine attitude when it comes to a situation which is obviously going to result in an emergency, obviously going to have people out on the street? I can't understand that.”

Potgieter said that Sanral should have asked the city to remove people from the site if it had been such an issue. He said it was clear the city had not done so because it would have had to consider a relocation spot.

Fellow Sanral attorney Shaun Hornby said that the land invasion was out of control between the granting of the interdict, on January 24, and June.

He said that Sanral's interdict would have been imposed in April or May had the public order police not been busy with elections and parliamentary activities.

“But you definitely couldn't send in the Sheriff with (their) own security and expect them to sort it out,” Hornby said.

The inquiry had earlier heard submissions from the Sheriff of the High Court for the region, who apologised for the impact the removals had on residents. He said he would have done things differently if given a second chance.

Potgieter said the first hearings were now closed and that the inquiry would proceed to Nonzamo, near Strand, on Wednesday to take statements from removed residents.

The next round of hearings in the area would be announced shortly.

- Sapa

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sheriff sorry about Lwandle

Cape Town - A Sheriff of the High Court who executed the removal of illegal shack dwellers from Sanral-owned land in Cape Town is sorry for the impact it had on residents, he said on Tuesday.

“If something like this happens again, I'll definitely handle this in a whole different manner,” Deon Burger told an inquiry investigating the removals from SA National Roads Agency Limited land in Lwandle on June 2 and 3.

“I thank the inquiry that we can learn from this experience and follow guidelines and that everybody across the country can benefit, so that law can also be accommodated in our communities.”

Burger said he received what he described as a court interdict granted by the Western Cape High Court on January 24, which authorised him to remove people and structures that came onto the land after that date.

He said he met police, city officials, and Sanral's contractors to discuss the “huge task”, and the first removals took place on February 3.

More shacks were erected on the land after that date and a second round of removals took place on June 2 and 3.

Burger initially mentioned that he was proud of the manner in which all officials had acted that day and assisted him. He also said no violence or injuries were brought to his attention.

Under questioning by inquiry members, he seemed to change his stance somewhat.

Members had asked, among other things, whether he had made provision for where the residents would be accommodated after their removal.

Burger replied that the court document in his possession did not make mention of that and agreed there should be more guidelines in future.

However, he said he and his team always prayed for the people they had to remove.

He described how his team would hold hands in the morning, have a moment of silence and pray for God to take control of the situation.

“We asked The Lord... to be a support to the communities we were removing, to realise we were only doing our jobs. I also asked God to take charge of the officials involved. They had weapons and were armed.”

He said in this light, the casualties and injuries on June 2 and June 3 were minimal.

“It's truly a miracle that nobody was injured and that it wouldn't erupt into a Marikana. I really thank God that it didn't happen.”

Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police, over 70 were wounded, and another 250

arrested at Lonmin's mine in Marikana, North West, in August 2012. Police were apparently trying to disarm and disperse them.

Inquiry head advocate Denzil Potgieter said it was really unfortunate and unnecessary, that after all the removals at Lwandle, it had been decided that residents should be returned to the land.

He thanked Burger for his submission.

“Your attitude and approach is appreciated. Unlike what some people think, we are not here to apportion blame. We are trying to find solutions,” Potgieter said.

In a written submission last week, Western Cape premier Helen Zille had accused the inquiry of being a “political hit squad” aimed at apportioning blame on her province and the city of Cape Town.

- Sapa

Sheriff tells of Lwandle interdict

Cape Town - An interdict, and not an eviction order, was used to remove people from Sanral-owned land in Lwandle, Cape Town, the Sheriff of the High Court for the region said on Tuesday.

“An eviction order stops but an interdict is an ongoing thing. Until finalised, it remains intact,” Deon Burger told an inquiry investigating the evictions on June 2 and June 3.

He was first tasked with executing a Western Cape High Court order granted on January 24, to remove people from land owned by the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral).

Inquiry head advocate Denzil Potgieter had said he had not seen any mention of the word “eviction” on the order.

Burger replied the interdict allowed removal of people, structures, and building materials that came onto the land after January 24.

He met various police officials and Cape Town land invasion, law enforcement and traffic officials on January 28 to discuss the best way to execute the “huge task” ahead of them.

At a meeting a few days later, it was decided that people and structures would be removed on February 3.

Burger said he met with police, city officials and Sanral's contractor at the Strand police station before the eviction that day and then proceeded to the site.

“Upon their arrival (at the site), the court order was read out in three languages: English, Afrikaans, and Xhosa. After this, eight notice boards were erected. Not all structures could be removed,” he said.

Building material and possessions were marked and taken to Sanral-owned land in Gordon's Bay and Somerset West.

On March 28, Sanral's attorney issued a notice to Burger to remove new structures on the land. Burger said lawyers returned to court to extend the initial court interdict.

“Police could not assist until the general election was over. After the election, police were committed to parliamentary activities,” he said.

Public order police suggested on May 14 that alternate arrangements be made because 183 structures had been built on the land.

He said Sanral hired extra security guards to patrol the land and a contractor to build a fence.

A second round of shack removals was discussed at a final meeting at the Faure police station on May 26.

“We were very concerned about the weather and that's why a detailed weather forecast was downloaded from the internet. It did not show any rain for June 2 and June 3.”

The same parties met at the police station on the morning of June 2 and went to the site, where someone had removed the notice boards.

“We were met by petrol bombs, rocks, and road blocks that were burning,” Burger said.

People were warned about the removals with loudspeakers. By 3.30pm, 80 shacks had been removed.

On June 3, Burger said they were again greeted by petrol bombs, rocks, and road blocks. He said some people threw petrol bombs into their own structures and removed their belongings.

All shacks were removed by 3.30pm.

Burger said the councillor in the area, Mbuyiselo Matha, was not given a copy of the order or notice for both evictions.

“At 6pm, I received an e-mail from the instructing attorney to stop all instructions on the court order,” Burger said.

He said he was not told the reasons for halting the execution of the interdict.

Had the e-mail not arrived, they would have completed the fencing around the land.

The inquiry, set up by Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, has until August 5 to conclude its work.

- Sapa

Monday, July 21, 2014

Lwandle evictions brutal: NGO

Cape Town - A young man committed suicide and a woman miscarried following the eviction of illegal shack dwellers in Lwandle, Cape Town, last month, a non-governmental organisation said on Monday.

“These are just some I had occasion to consult with. I am trying to assist you in connecting with the real and the authentic,” said Sheena St Clair Jonker, founder of the Access to Justice Association of Southern Africa (AJASA).

She was testifying at an inquiry investigating the eviction of people from SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) land on June 2 and June 3.

Jonker said she was called by Ses'Khona People's Rights Movement leader Loyiso Nkohla to consult residents and provide legal services.

Her written and oral evidence was to supplement that of Ses'Khona.

She said a woman who was four months pregnant was kicked by a police officer carrying out the eviction, and she miscarried her baby later that day.

A 21-year-old man committed suicide after he arrived at the area to find his home demolished and his possessions gone, she claimed.

She showed the inquiry a newspaper photo of community leader Xoliswa Masakala, who was seen naked and held at the throat by a policeman.

Jonker said Masakala was “brutalised”, arrested and charged with public violence.

Many others were arrested on the same charges for asking questions about what was happening and trying to retrieve their possessions.

“A group of about 10 were arrested on the day, incarcerated at police holding cells for a few days and then all moved to Pollsmoor Prison,” she said.

She also claimed she had evidence that live ammunition was used.

“(The eviction) amounted to a shooting of the wounded, a further injury to the already injured and further impoverishment of the already impoverished. It's not okay.”

She recommended that a restorative justice dialogue take place with all parties to sort out compensation and reparation.

Inquiry member Butch Steyn said it was not in dispute that there had been some form of abuse but was concerned that Jonker had not verified a lot of the information coming from residents.

“It leaves me a little bit uncomfortable. Do you have affidavits to back this presentation? If you do, we need copies,” Steyn said.

Jonker replied that gathering information had taken a while and she did not have affidavits. However, she had comprehensive consultation notes that could be converted to affidavits.

Inquiry member Annelize van Wyk asked whether she had evidence regarding her claim of live ammunition and whether she had reported the alleged police misconduct to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid).

Jonker replied that a resident had retrieved a live round. She committed to laying complaints with Ipid.

Van Wyk asked that this be handed to the inquiry as soon as possible.

- Sapa

Nkandla charges welcomed

Cape Town - The DA has welcomed reports that 13 Public Works officials, some of them in senior management, have been charged with maladministration relating to the R246 million in upgrades to President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla residence.

However, the party says the charges will be “mired in controversy” so long as politicians in public office avoid accountability.

“We can’t make scapegoats of relatively junior officials. All those implicated must face the law. The politicians involved in the Nkandla scandal can only be held accountable once President Zuma answers to Parliament, and acts on the recommendations made by the Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, an advocate. This includes paying back some of the money spent on his private residence,” said MP and DA federal executive chairman James Selfe.

City Press reported on Sunday that the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) had recommended that officials, whom it named, be charged in connection with upgrades.

Last week, Zuma said he was still considering his response to Parliament about the upgrades at his Nkandla residence after missing a 30-day deadline he had given himself.

Selfe said Zuma had employed “numerous delaying tactics”.

Selfe said the charges laid against the departmental officials were an important step in the right direction, but “the buck does not stop there”.

‘Evictees enraged by broken promises’

Cape Town - People who erected shacks on Sanral-owned land in Lwandle, Cape Town, were enraged “backyarders” who were tired of unfulfilled service delivery promises, a city councillor said on Monday.

Residents of Wag 'n Bietjie, an informal settlement near Somerset West, had to be relocated after their shacks were destroyed in a large-scale fire in 2007, African National Congress (ANC) councillor Mbuyiselo Matha told the Lwandle inquiry.

“In 2007, (then mayor Helen) Zille made promises to move people after fire gutted their houses. Some people were moved and some could not,” he said.

Those who were not moved to three pieces of land in Nomzamo and Asanda Village, as part of an agreement, were forced to rent backyard dwellings in the area.

The inquiry, set up by Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, was investigating the circumstances around the eviction of illegal shack-dwellers in Lwandle on June 2 and 3.

Matha said that at the start of the year representatives of the backyarders told him they were going to occupy the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) road reserve next to the N2 because they were tired of poor service delivery and ill-treatment by their landlords.

He warned them about the implications of moving onto the land but they did not listen. The first eviction took place at the start of February and the second in June.

“I, as the ward councillor, was not informed of the evictions (beforehand).”

He said he was not invited to meetings with Sanral, city officials or the police before the evictions.

He first found out about the eviction on June 2 when he got a phone call from a resident that morning that police were carrying in barbed wire and firing teargas.

He asked the police official in charge on the scene to look for an amicable solution, but this was turned down.

“He could not provide me with the court order. Instead he gave people 10 minutes to disperse. People were fired with teargas and some people were assaulted, kicked, including a nine-months-pregnant woman.”

Matha said Ses'Khona People's Rights Movement leader Andile Lili got a copy of the order and found it was a draft court order from the February eviction.

“They stopped the operation and went away.”

Commission head advocate Denzil Potgieter said there was a dispute as to how many families and shacks were affected by the June eviction.

The Sheriff of the High Court recorded some 230 demolished structures while residents claimed 849 structures were destroyed.

He asked Matha whether he had figures of his own.

Matha replied that he was not invited to count the shacks being demolished and relied on the community's figure because they had records of who had lived on the land.

The commission has until August 5 to conclude the inquiry.

- Sapa

Public order policing to be prioritised

Parliament - Special focus will be placed on changing the perceived military-style approach of public order policing (POP) units, Police Minister Nathi Nhleko said on Monday.

Opening debate on the police budget vote, Nhleko said police allocated significant resources during the 2013/14 financial year to resourcing the POP units with new equipment.

Training of POP officers was also prioritised.

“In the intervening period, 1826 members successfully attended POP refresher training, on crowd management techniques for operational readiness; 60 members were trained as video camera operators and information managers to capture footage during crowd-related incidents,” Nhleko said.

“All these efforts are conducted in line with the national vision of demilitarising the police services as well as putting in place a civilian approach to public order policing with a view to reduce the levels of militaristic or perceived militaristic approach to public order policing.”

The POP units would play a vital role in stabilising areas affected by service delivery protests.

“In the past few years, there has been a spate of service delivery protests around the country which have stretched our capacity to maintain order as mandated by Section 205 1/83 3/8 of the Constitution,” Nhleko said.

“A total number of 13 575 community-related protest incidents were responded to and successfully stabilised.”

The protests stemmed mainly from labour disputes and unhappiness with service delivery by local municipalities.

“Of the 13 575 incidents, 11 668 were conducted peacefully and 1907 turned violent which led to the arrest of 2522 individuals,” Nhleko said.

He did not specify in which time period the protests took place.

“We will continue to attend to these community protests with vigilance as we have done in the past with the sole intention of ensuring that we secure property and life of all South Africans.”

The minister also announced a raft of legislative and policy reviews will be introduced over the next financial year.

This would include a review of the SAPS (SA Police Service) Act to “align it with the Constitution”.

Research would be done into how police could reduce “the barriers to the reporting of cases of violence against women and children, serial murders and rapes”.

A review on how community policing forums and community safety forums could help police in stabilising areas affected by service delivery protests would also be prioritised over the next few months.

A renewed focus would be placed on professionalising the service.

“As part of the process of professionalisation in the police service, we have approved changes to the recruitment strategy of entry-level constables with a view to ensure that only the best-suited candidates are recruited into the SAPS,” Nhleko said.

“All our new recruits will be taken through rigorous testing for their suitability before they start with their formal training.”

Police recruits will be thoroughly vetted, tested for physical fitness and behaviour patterns.

“These changes have been introduced as part of the Community Based Recruitment Strategy that is aimed at addressing challenges such as pending and/or previous convictions, fraudulent qualifications and to avoid nepotism in the recruitment of officers,” Nhleko said.

“In terms of this strategy, the role of the community in commenting on their suitability will also assist in completing the 360-degree cycle of suitability testing.”

- Sapa

Group raises stink over Khayelitsha loos

Cape Town - One in four flush toilets inspected by the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) in a number of Khayelitsha informal settlements is not working, according to the organisation.

The SJC carried out a social audit of flush toilets in Enkanini and PJS, BT and BM Sections last week.

SJC project manager Axolile Notywala said the preliminary findings showed the implementation of the janitorial service was “inconsistent and haphazard”. He said this was due to a lack of planning and consistency by the city.

The SJC inspected 528 of 888 flush toilets and interviewed 195 residents and 31 janitors. The 90-member team also perused city documents giving the operational details of the programme.

According to its preliminary findings, released on Saturday, 138 of the toilets inspected did not work.

The City of Cape Town says the audit was undertaken to “ambush” local government.

The mayoral committee member for utility services, Ernest Sonnenberg, said the audit was not a “fair” reflection of the janitorial system.

The city was investigating whether janitors were fulfilling their duties.

It had asked the SJC for the raw data from which it compiled its findings.

“Have they checked the validity of those findings? We were not given an opportunity to interrogate the findings before the SJC went public.”

With the findings in the public domain, many residents would regard them as fact.

Sonnenberg said the SJC had chosen the four areas because it “knew they were problematic and were in low-lying areas”.

The SJC found 78 toilets were blocked, 78 could not flush, and 65 had no water, while 31 were not connected to sewerage pipes. Its preliminary findings were that 149 toilets were dirty, 109 very dirty and 82 in such a bad state they could not be inspected.

Of the 195 residents interviewed, only 35 said their toilets were not cleaned, 65 said janitors cleaned their toilets once a week, while 32 said they were cleaned twice a week, with 28 cleaning their own toilets.

No janitors were allocated to the PJS, where there are 146 toilets, and residents were cleaning the toilets.

A final report on the audit would be released soon, the SJC said.

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille said in her SA Today newsletter that the city was spending about R25 million a year fixing vandalised toilets in informal settlements.

“The city is assigning a GPS code to every public toilet, which will then have its own serial number on the inside of the door, so the maintenance department can quickly target the exact toilet on the receipt of an SMS notification.”

At a cost of R60m year, the city was employing 800 janitors to clean public flush toilets in informal settlements - in addition to the company contracts to maintain and clean chemical toilets.

She said the SJC, as an NGO, should teach residents about the responsibility of looking after their toilets.

xolani.koyana@inl.co.za

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Focus on building families and homes

For the quest for decent human settlements to receive attention, civil society has to stand up a lot more, says Thabo Makgoba.

Cape Town - The recent cacophony of new voices from the various legislatures has drawn considerable attention to the parliamentary channel on DSTV.

Politicians at each other’s throats and others thrown out of the legislatures seem to have made good entertainment while generating interest in this important, yet less watched, channel – at least according to what I hear.

My interest in that parliamentary channel this week was, however, different. With temperatures plummeting towards the freezing point in some parts of our country in the past week, my heart is with the families of Lwandle, Lenasia and many others that may have been waiting with bated breath to hear what Minister of Human Settlements Lindiwe Sisulu had to say in her budget vote of 2014.

My interest, as it has always been, was to pay attention to what our government intends to do with the degenerating state of our communities, primarily caused by what is today referred to as inadequate human settlements or lack thereof.

Some of the most basic human rights lie in the provision of site and services, in particular sanitation and proper housing.

Madiba’s legacy, which we are all celebrating this week, has, as its foundation, the question of human dignity.

I hope you took some time to reflect how deeply hurtful and dehumanising the recent eviction of the people of Lwandle in the Western Cape was.

The images fed to us by TV cameras and print media were not only an eyesore to some of us, but took us back to the pre-1994 era, where forced removals and evictions were the order of the day.

I can relate with the people of Lwandle and Lenasia who, through the evictions, were forced to take what they could while they watched in horror what they used to call home being brought to rubble.

What do we say to these people when we ask them to remember Madiba?

Back in the early 1940s, my father, his brothers and their cousins left the picturesque Limpopo village called Magoebaskloof for the city of gold, where they settled in Alexandra.

After many years of forging strong community bonds, my family was unfortunately forcibly removed back in 1974 to Pimville, Soweto.

What this removal was insensitive to was the fact that any ill-prepared move was not only going to tear families apart, but it was the beginning of disintegrating a community.

But I guess on the part of any repressive regime, that may be an intentional move to deal with perceived threats or risks as they were calling us back in the day.

In post-apartheid South Africa, one which continues to advocate for nation-building and social cohesion, it is quite incomprehensible that during days of inclement weather, families can be evicted apartheid-style out of their homes.

The greatest difficulty facing our government and its lawmakers today is the competing interests that require planning and execution to lead our people out of the many challenges overwhelming them daily, in particular the poor.

While I acknowledge that the government has finite resources to deal with all the problems facing South Africans today, I firmly believe that even if people are employed and have access to education, and yet struggle with the basic human necessities – shelter and access to proper sanitation – many things will break and the consequences will be too dire to deal with.

Some of our people have to continuously live with the bucket-toilet system while children untimely meet their Maker because of open pit toilets and bacteria-laden water.

Human settlements has to be a priority of the government – not only on paper and in parliamentary debates. This prioritisation has to trickle down to the very people the government seeks to serve.

While many solutions lie on the doorstep of the government, a lot more lie within us.

As citizens, we need to go beyond imploring the government to act against such a travesty of human dignity – we need to ask ourselves hard questions, ones that require us to take action instead of apportioning blame.

In her speech in Parliament Sisulu reminded us that the Race Relations Institute reported back in 2012 that of all the service delivery protests in the past five years – 20 percent – were said to have been attributed to housing problems.

While this is a noteworthy report, the question to be poignantly asked to the faith communities is: where have you been all along while communities continue to struggle for services, including access to sanitation and decent housing?

In all towns, townships and major cities I never miss a church, mosque or a synagogue. In fact, I have also been observing an increase in congregations that do not require the four walls to gather for worship.

This to me is an indication of how pervasive the faith community is – but seemingly, we are not using our collective power to be the voice of people in communities.

Are we that afraid that politicians will say we are trying to take their jobs and we should stick to preaching and worship?

Other questions are: if a community has been without basic human rights related to sanitation and settlement, where are the faith communities that minister to them weekly?

What action have they taken to ensure that this situation changes?

We seem to be sitting too long on our hands – we have not been called to be bystanders while our communities burn in the form of service delivery protests.

For the quest for decent human settlements to receive attention, civil society has to stand up a lot more to enforce what are basic human rights.

We commend civil society initiatives, like the one on Limpopo, that have seen the birth of a coalition to focus on the issue of poor sanitation in schools.

Such civil society pressure groups must be replicated across the country to hold the government accountable.

The strike in Marikana, and the subsequent tragedy in that part of the country, has brought into focus the role of business in communities.

Mining companies, in particular, make billions from the minerals below our land.

The extent to which they plant back, both as a direct meeting of their obligations linked to their licence, and also simply as a moral duty to plant back, leaves much to be desired.

It’s common knowledge that mining companies, in particular, are responsible for the collapse of the family unit.

They are an example of what a migrant labour system can do to destabilise the family unit.

Therefore, a call for mining companies to invest in proper accommodation for families will go a long way towards rebuilding the fabric of family in what is a huge constituency of mine workers.

Second, and more importantly, the communities surrounding the mines must be attended to with huge investments that should eradicate things such as the bucket system, and therefore improve the health profile of these communities.

Finally, business in general must identify communities where they derive their income, and partner with the government to attend to the settlement challenges.

Investment in sporting facilities, or even mere fields, can go a long way towards ensuring that the settlement of communities is made even slightly bearable.

What has happened to local community action?

In our culture, letsema used to ensure that there was joint community action to clean up our places of abode. These days we wait for the government to do things for us.

The president called on all of us to clean up during Mandela Day – this is a call that we endorse only as a reminder of what communities ought to be doing all round the year to live up to the adage, “cleanliness is next to godliness”.

Once these things are done, we still have to attend to the spiritual challenge of refocusing the attention of society on the family.

The scriptures give us hope that this battle can be won.

The issue of fixing the family and the values that must underpin it must start with each one of us.

* Thabo Makgoba is the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

One in four toilets in Khayelitsha informal settlement not working: SJC

This was one of the preliminary findings of a week-long social audit on

the janitorial service for communal flush toilets, the SJC said in a statement.

A social audit is a tool that enables community participation in monitoring government service delivery and spending.

On Saturday the SJC and Ndifuna Ukwazi hosted a public hearing to report back to communities on the social audit.

"At the public hearing... participants presented their evidence and

community members gave testimonies of their experiences of this service," the SJC said.

The social audit also found that almost half of the toilets inspected were "either dirty or very dirty".

Not all areas had enough janitors to service the toilets, and janitors did not have the required cleaning equipment or receive the required training.

The preliminary report also indicated that janitors were not being inoculated against disease and did not have the required protective personal equipment, the SJC said.

The SJC made headlines in September when 18 of its members were arrested along with Treatment Action Campaign founder Zachie Achmat after they chained themselves to railings of the Cape Town civic centre to demonstrate their frustration over sanitation provision in Khayelitsha.

13 officials to face Nkandla music

Thirteen officials, some of whom sat on the committee that decided who to award the Nkandla refurbishment contracts to, have been charged in an internal disciplinary hearing for maladministration related to the R246 million upgrades to President Jacob Zuma’s rural homestead.

The Special Investigating Unit, which conducted its own investigations into the Nkandla upgrades scandal, recommended to Public Works the names of officials to be charged in connection with the saga.

They are facing charges related to procurement irregularities and transgressing provisions of the Public Finance Management Act and failure to follow supply chain prescripts.

More officials are expected to face the music in the coming weeks in connection with Nkandla, according to Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi.

Lack of communication is an injustice in land restitution

By signing the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill, President Jacob Zuma recently initiated round two of SA’s programme of land restitution.

By signing the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill, President Jacob Zuma recently initiated round two of South Africa’s programme of land restitution. Yet, before entering this new phase, the Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights will have to learn from its previous mistakes and build on its successes.

For my new book, We Want What’s Ours, I interviewed 150 land claimants whose families were forcibly removed from urban areas. Through these interviews, we can begin to understand the commission’s successes and failures from the most important vantage point – that of dispossessed individuals and communities.

One of the principal findings in We Want What’s Ours is that good communication between commission officials and claimants is absolutely vital. Stories from former residents of the Luyolo township in Simon’s Town illustrate this point.

The Luyolo claimants were one of the few communities to have had a choice between receiving land or financial compensation. Whereas those who selected financial compensation have been paid out, those who chose land are still waiting – even 16 years after filing their claims.

There is no doubt that locating and transferring land to claimants is a complex task that takes time. But if claimants do not get regular updates on the challenges faced by the commission, they are left waiting in the dark and feeling disrespected, anxious, and frustrated. When I asked a former resident of Luyolo, who was among those waiting for land, if the commission was doing anything well, he angrily replied: “A big no! A big no! [They] are doing an injustice! Yes, it’s an injustice!”

If the commission had mechanisms to keep communities regularly informed about the inevitable challenges it faced, claimants could have taken a ride in the front seat of the process, alongside the commission, as partners in the long journey, instead of being left in the dark.

Although there are several things the commission must do to improve communication in round two, I will provide two specific suggestions.

First, the commission relied heavily on claimant committees under volunteer community leaders to communicate with claimants, but did not provide them with the resources they needed to do this effectively. A member of the claimant committee for the people of Kilnerton said: “We didn’t even get a cent for helping those people … People from the [department of] land affairs didn’t see it in that light, you see. They felt it was our job; it was our obligation to do that … We used our phones, we travel around, you move. It’s all costs. ”

Committee members often did not have the money for airtime to call commission officials for updates or to communicate with other community members. If the commission did provide financial support for these types of activities, many claimant committees would have been able to usher their former neighbours through the restitution process more effectively. Most importantly, the pervasive sense of disappointment and disrespect that came from being uninformed and unheard could have been avoided.

The second suggestion is for the commission to set up mobile offices, something akin to the mobile clinics that have become popular in healthcare. Most claimants are poor and do not have money to go to, or to call, the commission for updates or information, so communication breakdowns happened frequently.

The government should come to the people’s doorstep when the people are unable to come to the government. Mobile offices could be equipped so that project officers spend 80% or more of their time in the communities they are serving.

“Because there [were] so many claims in Paarl,” said one member of a claimant committee in that area, “we actually suggested: set up the office here for six months and you have somebody here on a full-time basis, so people can come to you [instead of people going] from Paarl to Cape Town just to fill in the form.” He is absolutely right.

Whether in South Africa, Europe or the United States, communication is a challenge for all government agencies serving poor constituencies.

Nevertheless, in round two of South Africa’s land restitution programme, the land commission must create a more effective communication strategy so that claimants know exactly what is going on and are not left uninformed, frustrated and feeling like second-class citizens.

If this does not happen, the restitution process could further rip the wounds it was meant to heal.

Bernadette Atuahene is a professor of law at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law and chief executive of Land Solutions International. Her book We Want What’s Ours: Learning from South Africa’s Land Restitution Process is published by Oxford University Press. For more information go to wewantwhatsours.com

- M&G