Sisulu wants land expropriated to build communal urban areas

Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu. Picture: ANA

Apart from dilapidated inner cities, the minister is eyeing state land that is not being used.

Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu is advocating for land expropriation to prioritise human settlements, to enable her department to build communal urban areas that will fulfil government’s integrated settlements and economic development policy.

The minister, delivering her human settlements department’s budget vote in the National Assembly on Tuesday, was ecstatic about the prospects to be presented by the draft legislation on the expropriation of land published recently.

She said if the Bill was adopted as it was currently, her department would like to take advantage of its clauses that dealt with “abandoned property” and land owned by the state or state-owned enterprises.

She would like to see the definition of abandoned land – “where the owner of the land had abandoned the land” to include hijacked buildings.

“We would like to expropriate these in order to create social housing,” Sisulu said.

In cases where land was owned by the state or SOEs, the department must be given preference to so as to create human settlements and places of employment.

“We would also like to be given first preference to all state land in urban areas to create human settlements where we will be able to create communal urban areas, including parks, sports centres, multipurpose centres and economic areas for small business opportunities,” Sisulu said.

“The draft legislation determines that no land will be expropriated for any other reason, except for the public interest.

“I cannot see that there is any greater public interest than what we represent at human settlements. It should, therefore, be possible for us to be the first to benefit from this legislation.”

Human settlements transformation and consolidation could no longer be deferred and in terms of the concept, the department was building new, integrated, functional and inclusive settlements that may vary in size and complexity.

The settlement would all share common elements of capable and quality infrastructure, economic production, inclusive quality family homes within close proximity to social amenities, recreation and learning places.

Transformation would also target former mining towns such as Thabazimbi in Limpopo, Emalahleni in Mpumalanga and Matlosana in the North West, that would be changed from being “ghost towns”.

Similarly, the inner cities of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Germiston, Durban, East London and Bloemfontein would be revived.

“These are priority spaces that represent the finest opportunity for spatial transformation and consolidation through renewal programmes and harnessing the inherent economic momentum within the cities,” Sisulu said.

The process would see the townships such as Khayelitsha in Western Cape, Soweto in Johannesburg, Umlazi in Durban, Seshego in Polokwane, Kanyamzane in Mpumalanga and Mdantsane in East London, among others, transformed from dormitory settlement status to vibrant economic hubs.

“Catalytic projects” involving private sector support and partnerships were undertaken to ensure that all elements of state human settlement policy were catered for.

About 1 167 138 serviced sites and 3 291 891 housing units with sites were built at Cosmo City, Fleurhof, Olievenhoutbosch and Savanna City in Johannesburg, Zanemvula in Port Elizabeth and Cornubia in Durban, among others.

“These catalytic projects are our cities-in-the-making and in the process, we have provided more than four million houses and housing opportunities,” she said.

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