A joint meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation and the Select Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Water and Sanitation and Human Settlements, has urged the Minister of Human Settlements, Ms Lindiwe Sisulu, to come up with decisive measures to stop the evictions happening in some of South Africa’s cities.

The Minister briefed the committees on the impact of the lockdown and initiatives undertaken by the Department of Water and Sanitation and the Department of Human Settlements in the provision of water and sanitation to the people, as well as the initiatives undertaken on de-densification during COVID-19 period. 

The joint committee raised concerns on the recent spike of evictions in Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg. A majority of members of the committees criticised what they called the disregard of the lockdown regulations by municipalities and called the Minister to act to stop the evictions.

The Chairperson of the Select Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Water and Sanitation and Human Settlements, Mr China Dodovu, said: “It is unacceptable that the municipalities have blatantly decided to ignore and undermine the directives of the national government and continue to evict the people notwithstanding the calls from across the country, from individuals and organisations for the urgent stoppage of evictions.

In expressing their rejection of the evictions in the strongest terms, the committees said, with or without Covid-19, eviction of the vulnerable people especially at the beginning of winter in South Africa, is an act of insensitivity and heartlessness.

Both committees appreciated the assurance and commitment by the Minister to stop the evictions. The Minister was in the City of Cape Town to deal with Khayelitsha evictions and after the meeting she went to the City of Johannesburg to deal with evictions that have been one of the immediate and bitter consequences of the lockdown in the City of Johannesburg’s Lawley township.

Regarding the de-densification of informal settlements, the joint committee through the Minister urged the government to make land available for the urgent rollout of the de-densification programme as a means curbing the spread of Covid-19. “The department must also ensure prudence where land has to be purchased, with the aim of ensuring value for money for purchased land,” said Ms Machwene Semenya, the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation.

 Regarding the provision of water to the people, both committees called for the urgent installation of water tanks that have been procured to ensure that people have access to clean water to enable them to follow the hygiene rules of washing their hands, as the Department of Health is advising South Africans to do as part of the basic strategies to prevent the spread of the Covid-19.

The installation of only 7 689 tanks out of the 14 737 delivered was an issue that worried many of the members of the committees. Ms Semenya said: “While the committees acknowledge the delivery of tanks, we are concerned that only about a half of them are delivered and installed. Also, it is concerning that four weeks after the declaration of the national disaster, only 7 689 tanks are installed. “While we welcome the extent of the work done up to now, however, all the allocated tanks must be operational urgently,” Ms Semenya said.

The committees welcomed the commitment shown by the departmental officials to deal expeditiously with the lack of water in some areas. The Acting Director-General of the Department of Water and Sanitation, Mr Mbulelo Tshangana, said he is going to intervene personally in areas of concern when he receives information.

The Portfolio Committee of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation committed itself to setting up another engagement with the Minister to get updates periodically on the intervention from the department.

By Malatswa Molepo