“That is how our policy should read,” Sisulu told Parliament’s portfolio committee on human settlements after a briefing on the first 100 days of her second stint in the portfolio.
“In 2006, we were involved in a women’s build in Gauteng and after that we had an imbizo, and we came up with an idea that I had hoped in my second coming would have crystallised into policy, where we agreed that the house belongs to the man and the wife for as long they’re married.
“When they get divorced the house belongs to the woman. That is our policy. So the man picks up his jacket and gets out,” she added.
The minister said her thinking was informed by the fact that mothers were the primary caregivers for their children.
“The wife stays because the wife is indeed responsible for the children.”
Sisulu suggested the policy had not yet found its way into law because the department had been “presided by men”.
She said if a wife died the house would go to the husband, on condition the children were also considered beneficiaries and that the house accrued to them if he remarried.
“If he finds somebody else, he gives the house to the children and goes to the other woman.”
Sisulu served as housing minister from 2004 to 2009. The portfolio was then given to Tokyo Sexwale before she returned to it earlier this year.
She told Sapa the provision on divorce would be enshrined in upcoming amendments to the Housing Act. She hoped in a year it would be on its way into law books.
In the meanwhile, her department would implement it as policy, she said.
Sisulu again stressed the economic and social plight of women when MPs asked about improvements in living conditions for miners.
She said it was an often overlooked reality that migrant miners chose not to bring their rural families to live with them in accommodation provided by mining companies and the state. Instead they took mistresses and fathered children in informal settlements around the mines.
“It is part of a sub-culture that is not often talked about,” she said.
She said it was noted in a study on living conditions around Marikana, North West. She encountered proof of it herself when she realised that hostels converted into family units by the state were standing empty.
Miners told government officials “I don’t want my wife here”, but preferred leaving her in the Eastern Cape “looking after the chicken and the cows”, the minister said.
When these miners’ contracts expired and they returned to their rural homes, their second families were left in poverty in the areas surrounding the mines because they were now without a breadwinner, she said.
Sisulu said the mining houses could not be held responsible for these women and their children, but the issue could not be overlooked because of the misery it created.
She acknowledged it was not a new phenomenon, but commented that it appeared to have become more pervasive.
“Society has become more accepting or more decadent of late.”