OPEN LETTER TO PATRICIA DE LILLE | The Western Cape is facing a housing shortage. What is the plan?

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The DA in the Western Cape wants answers from Patricia de Lille over land issues in the province.                          Photo: Adrian de Kock
The DA in the Western Cape wants answers from Patricia de Lille over land issues in the province. Photo: Adrian de Kock

Matlhodi Maseko writes that silence from Patricia de Lille on land issues in the Western Cape could be interpreted as placing politics above residents' dignity in the Western Cape.

Dear Minister de Lille, 

While it is unfortunate that your department's communication on land matters with the Western Cape has been mainly through the media, I still believe we share the same goal: accelerating housing opportunities. I know that you recognise the urgent need for large-scale housing developments in the Western Cape, particularly in Cape Town.

I say this because, as the Executive Mayor of Cape Town, you consistently – and rightly – called for the release of vast tracts of land under national custodianship for affordable housing opportunities. In fact, in 2014, you wrote to then-President Jacob Zuma for the release of Wingfield and Youngsfield and said that "one of the major challenges currently confronting the City is a shortage of suitable available land for housing." In January this year, in your capacity as the national Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, ministers Mapisa-Nqakula, Didiza and yourself discussed recommendations for how some of these sites might be used for housing purposes.  

Six months later, we are still waiting for further information on what recommendations will be made to Cabinet on this matter.  

Housing crisis

Meanwhile, the Western Cape, like the rest of the country, faces a housing crisis. The City of Cape Town has been honest: it is set to deal with a housing shortfall of 30 000 units every year for the next decade as the City's population is expected to grow by 800 000. It is precisely because of our shared vision and needs for a sense of urgency that close working relations and a spirit of cooperative governance should exist between the provincial and national government. 

Minister de Lille, remaining silent on this matter could be interpreted as placing politics above residents' dignity in the Western Cape. Likewise, vaguely communicating important announcements through media is seen as grandstanding. 

With that said, on the 7 May this year, you indicated to the media that you had released at least five parcels of land to the Western Cape for human settlement purposes since taking up your national post. You later indicated that it was in fact, six, not five, parcels of land that are in the process of being released in Stellenbosch, Driftsand, Mossel Bay and Wellington. 

While this is a step in the right direction, at the time of writing this letter, neither the provincial Department of Human Settlements nor the Housing Development Agency has received any formal communication from your office about releasing these land parcels. It remains unclear where exactly these land parcels are, if they are suitable for housing developments, and the timeline for releasing these parcels. Despite having written to you in May, the provincial government is still awaiting clarity on its questions. 

We need land

Without further information, the department cannot plan for housing developments on these sites. It is impossible for the provincial department to outline its priorities and plans for the coming year fully. Every day that the provincial department can plan is a day closer to bringing essential services to the residents of the Western Cape.  

As the Chairperson for Human Settlements in the Western Cape, I urge you to extend the hand of cooperative governance. At the very least, reply to the Western Cape Minister of Human Settlements and provide details on:

  • The land parcels you announced in May for release so that homes could be built.
  • The vast parcels of land near the Cape Town Metro, identified by yourself as former Executive Mayor and again in your current role. These include military sites such as Youngsfield, Wingfield and Denel, where as many as 100 000 affordable housing opportunities could be created close to economic opportunities. 

Let us move forward and get the wheels of government to turn. We need the land so we can build homes – this is our shared constitutional obligation. It's not a nice-to-have.  

Let's work together so that joint efforts between your department and the Western Cape government can bring housing opportunities to our communities. As the national Minister, you now have the office and the authority to bring spatial transformation to the Western Cape. 

- MPL Matlhodi Maseko is chairperson of the Standing Committee on Human Settlements in the Western Cape

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