They are fighting for the right to own the public homes, rather than being tenants “forever”.
George Xaba and his Emalahleni Housing Company have now been reported to President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Also Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has been asked to look into the matter.
The scores of Dingindoda residents this week drove all the way to Union Building in order submit a memorandum of demand to Ramaphosa’s office.
They tell the head of state that they are “poor, working class people” and are living in units that were “hijacked” by Xaba’s Emalahleni Housing Company soon after its construction in the early 2000s.
The 1, 300 Tasbet Park units, known as uThingo Park and nicknamed Dingindoda, are a subject of court contention between businessman Themba Sgudla and Xaba.
Sgudla wants the residents to no longer pay rent – instead he wants them to pay money into his account towards a rent-to-buy arrangement and the residents agree.
But Xaba and the Mpumalanga provincial government are saying that cannot happen – the homes were built with public money and were meant to accommodate immigrant workers on a low rental cost arrangement like hostels.
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office is yet to confirm receiving the memorandum from the residents
Xaba and the residents are on each other’s throats and letters of evictions have been sent to the residents after some ceased paying rent in September 2018 – told by Sgudla to do so.
ALSO RELATED: George Xaba hits back at Themba Sgudla
In the memorandum, the residents demand that the President intervenes and stops Xaba from “illegally evicting” them.
They also want the President to make the rent-to-buy arrangement possible after the Mpumalanga authorities opposed it, saying they have been staying in the public homes for 16 years and now find themselves “renting forever”.
“This project was also meant to assist the poor working class of eMalahleni to have an option to rent to buy for a period of 15 years and not to rent forever,” the memorandum, signed by residents’ representatives Nelville Maseko, Candy Ganyane and Phumzile Sibiya.
ALSO RELATED: George Xaba not maintaining Dingindoda despite claiming to do so
Businessman Themba Sgudla – whose company Anchorprops21 Pty Ltd built the social housing units – wants the residents to own them by entering into a rent-to-buy agreement with him and to dump George Xaba’s Emalahleni Housing Company
Xaba has secured court orders to get the residents who refuse to pay rent evicted from the area but the residents want Ramaphosa to intervene, saying the reason they do not pay rent is because they want Xaba to come answer “questions concerning the maintenance and allegation of corruption”.
They also want Ramaphosa to help get the homes transferred into the hands of the eMalahleni municipality and no longer in Xaba’s hands saying it was “unconstitutional for [his] Emalahleni Housing Company to continue collecting rent from the residents while there is still a land dispute in the court of law”.
ALSO SEE: George Xaba pays himself R1.3 million from Dingindoda rent
They say the homes are in the hands of an “individual for a purpose of self-enrichment”.
“[He is] trying very hard to secure the land of government in order to privatise subsidised government apartments for a purpose of looting from the working class and the poor people of eMalahleni. We have requested the Public Protector to investigate the allegations of transferring the land of government illegally,” the memorandum reads in part.
Ramaphosa’s spokeswoman Khusela Diko didn’t answer SMSed questions this week.
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He called on all South Africans to give the President a chance as he is preparing good things for them.
ANC deputy president DD Mabuza has said that he will always be there for President Cyril Ramaphosa, supporting him throughout the years to come.
He said Ramaphosa “is safe” with him and they will always work “side by side” for the betterment of the lives of the poor.
“With a person of President Ramaphosa’s calibre we will overcome,” said the country’s deputy president.
Mabuza answered a string of questions from journalists on the sidelines of a Thuma Mina ANC campaign in Mkhondo the past weekend.
He recently took “sick leave” in order to go see his medical doctors in Russia.
He agreed to answer media questions while conducting a door-to-door campaign in the Mkhondo area and making a heap of promises to the residents, including building them houses, putting stoves, fridges, beds and blankets.
He said the reason he went to Russia was not because he didn’t have confidence in South African healthcare but simply because the Russian doctors understand his 2015 poisoning issue and are actually the ones who treated him after he got terribly ill while celebrating his 55th birthday in Bushbuckridge.
“I’m saying to the members of the ANC and the people out there let’s give Ramaphosa a chance,” Mabuza said.
“Let’s support him. We will make it,” the deputy president said.
He told the SABC that under the leadership of Ramaphosa there are better things coming and “I can see change”.
“But I want to assure the people that I will always be alongside Ramaphosa. I will work side by side and I will never cause commotion or fight for his position because his position is our position,” the deputy president said.
He was accompanied by other NEC members, Premier Refilwe Mtshweni and ANC provincial acting chairman Mandla Ndlovu whom he introduced as “the one who took over from me when I left”.
Gert Sibande regional and sub-regional leaders also formed part of the campaign alongside Mabuza in the Mkhondo area of Mpumalanga on Sunday.
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There was mixed reaction to his appointment this week.
The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) said that the appointment of former reserve bank governer Tito Mboweni will “no doubt” calm markets.
The party said the man’s appointment will also provide confidence to foreign investors because of his previous investor-friendly role as a cabinet minister and central bank governor.
“He will no doubt adhere to strict fiscal consolidation measures required to stabilise state finances,” the ACDP said.
“And will inspire investor confidence in the economy,” the party said.
It urged President Cyril Ramaphosa to follow through on his commitment to good and clean governance by considering removing other “far more contentious ministers” than Nene.
The rand strengthened as news of Mboweni’s appointment spread.
Ramaphosa announced Mboweni as the new finance minister after Nhlanhla Nene resigned over allegations of his link with the Gupta family.
“This moment calls for strong, capable and steady leadership that will unlock new opportunities as we grow and transform our economy. I am confident that Mr Mboweni will provide that leadership,” Ramaphosa said on Tuesday evening.
The DAexpressed concerns over Twitter posts that Mboweni made several months ago where he called on the state to own 40% of mining companies.“What is not clear is whether this was a flirtation with “radical economic transformation”, or a conversion to ‘radical economic transformation,” DA shadow minister of finance David Maynier said.
“We now need to know whether the minister actually supports extending state-ownership in the mining sector, establishing a state-owned bank and creating a sovereign Wealth Fund, which may have major implications for investment and job creation in South Africa,” he said.
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He spoke in Parliament this week Wednesday.
Deputy President DD Mabuza has suggested that we are currently not in a technical recession but rather the problem is the SA economy refusing to grow.
He was answering oral questions this week Wednesday in the National Assembly.
He said those who were saying the country was in recession didn’t take “a very comprehensive picture”.
Sats SA a week ago said the economy had entered its first technical recession in nine years and GDP went down by 0.7% in the second quarter of 2018, meaning from April to June.
“As a country‚ we’ve noticed the current decline,” he told MPs on Wednesday afternoon.
“And I don’t probably agree with those who are saying we are in technical recession‚” said Mabuza.
He said as government they have taken a “comprehensive picture” and were taking it quarter by quarter and they were seeing an economy that was refusing to grow‚ not that it had entered recession.
“We’ve not taken the overall statistics over a period. But I’m confident that as government we’re going to reverse this tide and I am sure President Cyril Ramaphosa will make a few announcements on how governments wants to intervene in this current situation because it’s our responsibility to respond to this situation,” the deputy president said.
He also rejected suggestions from Cope and DA MPs that we were like this because of the issue surrounding land expropriation without compensation.
“I want to dismiss the fact that land expropriation accounts for this situation,” he said.
“Or that it is scaring investors. I don’t agree,” Mabuza said.
“And we’ve said again and again that land expropriation is going to happen in a very responsible way.
“We’re not intending to disrupt our agricultural production… I don’t think we should be pessimists and run away from the facts we should address.”
RELATED: Agri-Mpumalanga leader believes land expropriation will affect food security
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The President pens an article to explain some of the issues around the “most devastating” South African economic inequalities created by the skewed land ownership.
It is nearly 25 years since SA became a democracy, yet the promise of that historic achievement has not yet been fully realised by the millions of people who are unemployed and live in poverty.
Despite significant progress, many of the economic disparities of the apartheid era persist. After a decade of slow growth, the South African government has embarked on a big investment drive to stimulate economic growth and create new jobs.
It has begun to tackle the obstacles to growth by working towards greater policy certainty, shifting resources towards infrastructure investment, reducing bureaucratic inefficiency and stabilising public finances.
Among the greatest obstacles to growth is the severe inequality between black and white South Africans. For the South African economy to reach its full potential, it is therefore necessary to significantly narrow gaps in income, skills, assets and opportunities.
One of the areas where this disparity is most devastating is in the ownership and access to land. As the World Bank has observed, “SA’s historical, highly skewed distribution of land and productive assets is a source of inequality and social fragility.”
It argues that, after skills, current distribution of land is the second-biggest constraint to poverty reduction and shared prosperity. In order for SA to secure the future, and to ensure equitable and just human development opportunities as envisioned by our first democratic president, Nelson Mandela, reform of patterns of land ownership in SA is a critical issue.
That is why the government has embarked on a process of accelerated land reform and why South Africans are currently engaged in an intense debate over the prospect of expropriation of land without compensation as one among several measures to achieve this reform. Unfortunately, several commentators have confined their engagement on this matter to soundbites and not to the substance.
The “land question” goes back more than a century to the 1913 Natives Land Act, which provided legislative form to a process of dispossession that had been under way since colonial times. It confined the country’s African population to slightly more than 10 per cent of the land, reserving the rest for the white minority. These laws alienated the majority of our citizens from their places of birth and burial, stripped them of their assets and deprived them of their livelihoods.
Even now, the dispossession of land continues to determine the prospects of millions of South Africans, and it holds back the country’s economic development. By restricting the ownership of land to a small minority, the apartheid regime ensured that one of the country’s most valuable economic resources would be severely underutilised.
During this year the department of rural development and land reform released results of a land audit to establish land ownership patterns. Among other insights forthcoming from the land audit, it emerged that:
Individuals, companies and trusts own 90 per cent of land in SA, and the state 10 per cent
Of this 90%, individuals own 39%, trusts 31%, companies 25% and community-based organisations 4%, with co-ownership at 1%.
In terms of farms and agricultural holdings, 97% of the total agricultural holdings are owned by 7% of landowners
Agricultural land ownership by race: 72% of farms and agricultural holdings are owned by whites, 15% by coloured citizens, 5% by Indians, and 4% by Africans
For decades, the country’s assets — its land, its minerals, its human resources, its enterprises — have been owned, controlled and managed in a way that has prevented the extraction of their full value. Our intention is to unlock the economic potential of land. Without the recognition of the property rights of all our people, we will not overcome inequality, and without giving the poor the means to productively farm the land, we will not defeat poverty.
In promoting accelerated land reform, the ruling ANC, recently resolved to propose a constitutional amendment that would make explicit the conditions under which land could justifiably be expropriated without compensation. While the current clause in the constitution dealing with property rights does not necessarily prohibit such a measure, the ANC’s view is that an amendment would provide certainty and clarity.
The proposed amendment would need to reinforce the fundamental principles of the property clause, which, among other things, prohibits the arbitrary deprivation of property and holds that expropriation is possible in the public interest subject to just and equitable compensation. It also says that no provision can impede the process of land reform to redress the results of past racial discrimination.
While a parliamentary committee is at present wrapping up public hearings on this issue and still needs to give consideration to any possible constitutional amendment, there have been several suggestions on when expropriation without compensation may be justified. These include, for instance, unused land, derelict buildings, purely speculative land holdings, or circumstances where occupiers have strong historical rights and title holders do not occupy or use their land, such as labour tenancy, informal settlements and abandoned inner-city buildings.
This is no land grab; nor is it an assault on the private ownership of property. The ANC has been clear that its land reform programme should not undermine future investment in the economy or damage agricultural production and food security. The proposals will not erode property rights, but will instead ensure that the rights of all South Africans, and not just those who currently own land, are strengthened. SA has learnt from the experiences of other countries, both from what has worked and what has not, and will not make the same mistakes that others have made.
The proposal on expropriation without compensation is one element of a broader programme of land reform that seeks to ensure that all citizens can have their land rights recognised, whether they live in communal areas, informal settlements or on commercial farms. It includes the release of well-located urban land for low-cost housing so that the poor can own property and live close to economic opportunities.
For land reform to succeed, it is essential that support is given to beneficiaries of land redistribution through financing, training, market access, irrigation and the provision of seeds, fertiliser and equipment, all of which contribute to the sustainability of emerging agricultural enterprises.
Land reform in SA is a moral, social and economic imperative. By bringing more land into productive use, by giving more South Africans assets and opportunities for sustainable livelihoods, the country is creating conditions for greater, more inclusive and more meaningful growth.
– First published by theFinancial Times