Renewed Commitment to Upgrading of Informal Settlements

Ronald Eglin

Government is renewing its commitment to the upgrading of informal settlements.  In his budget vote speech on 20 February 2019, the Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni stated that

“(f)unding totalling R14.7 billion over the two outer years [202/21 and 2021/22] has been reprioritised to two new conditional grants for informal settlements upgrading which will enable these households [living in informal settlements] to have access to basic amenities.”

In preparation for introducing these two new conditional grants (according to the Division of Revenue Bill 2019),  government will, in the 2019/20 period be introducing two new ‘windows’ within the Human Settlement Development Grant (HSDG) and the within the Urban Settlement Development Grant (USDG) where funds from these grants will be ring fenced for the upgrading of informal settlements. The HSDG is administered by provincial Departments of Human Settlements, while the USDG is a grant that is allocated by Treasury directly to metropolitan municipalities for metros to administer.  These windows set a minimum amount each province, working with municipalities (for the HSDG), and each metropolitan municipality (for the USDG) must spend on informal settlement upgrading, and requires these provinces, municipalities and metros to work in partnership with communities. (Division of Revenue Bill 2019, page 90 for HSDG and page 106 for USDG).  Depending on the success of these two ‘windows’, two new Informal Settlements Upgrading Partnership Grants will be introduced in subsequent years, ‘skimming’ funds off the HSDG and USDG allocations up to a total of R14.7 billion for the 2020/21 and 2021/22 period.

The upgrading of informal settlements has been a priority of government for a number of years now – since the introduction of the Breaking New Ground policy in 2004 (A Comprehensive Plan for the Development of Sustainable Human Settlements) – but in many instances government appears to be claiming many projects as upgrading of informal settlements projects, but on closer inspection these projects could better be described as conventional RDP housing projects making use of the Integrated Residential Development Programme grant.  These projects may benefit some people living in informal settlements in that they move these people from their informal shack into a new RDP house. However, these projects do not actually follow the phases for upgrading as described in the Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP) of the 2009 housing code.

A ‘true’ UISP project involves a four phase process

The new Informal Settlements Upgrading Partnership Grant, that is being tested in the 2019/20 financial year and will be formally introduced in 2020/21, seems to be an attempt by government (through Treasury) to ensure that in future government counts true upgrading of informal settlements projects within its statistics for upgrading and does not claim conventional RDP housing projects as upgrading.

It needs to also be remembered that government in its 2014 – 2019 medium term strategic framework for human settlements, set itself a target to provide 750 000 households by 2019, through the Informal Settlements Upgrading Programme, with access to basic services and security of tenure.  This new informal settlement upgrading grant introduced in the 2019 budget vote speech will go a long way to helping government achieve any new target it sets itself for the next 2019 – 2024 Medium Term Strategic Framework period.




Annual Report 2017

Afesis-corplan is proud to present our Annual Report for 2017. Find out about all the exciting projects we are working on and the progress, successes, lowlights and lessons we are learning as an organisation.

Annual report 2017




Afesis-corplan makes submission on Expropriation without compensation

Afesis-corplan, in its submission to the Constitutional Review Committee, submits that the constitution does not need to be revised at this stage to (1) expropriate land without compensation, and (2) create an appropriate tenure regime. The state should however (1) test the constitutional provisions to determine under what circumstances it is ‘just and equitable’ to provide zero or less than market value compensation; and (2) undertake research and investigation into the advantages and disadvantages of various tenure options in different circumstances, to inform appropriate tenure regimes.

More broadly however, Afesis-corplan believes that the state is not living up to its constitutional obligations to (A – as per section 25.5) take sufficient “reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to foster conditions which enable citizens to gain access to land on an equitable basis”, or (B – as per section 25.6) create a situation, to the extent provided by an Act of Parliament, where “a person or community whose tenure of land is legally insecure as a result of past racially discriminatory laws or practices is entitled, … either to tenure which is legally secure or to comparable redress.”

By making this criticism we do not want to take away from the significant achievements made by government in addressing land reform in the country since 1994, including, for example, building RDP houses for people and finalising land restitution claims, but we do want to highlight that there is still much to be done.  We contend that the solutions to these failures do not lie in changing the constitution but rather relate to developing a clear land reform policy that can be translated into specific land redistribution and tenure reform legislation, programmes and projects.

While this policy is being developed we suggest a number of more specific recommendations for the state to implement including, for example, and amongst others:

  • Develop and adopt a new Land Expropriation Act that is in line with the constitution.
  • Introduce a Managed Land Settlement Programme, a Housing Support Programme, and a Smallholder Programme.
  • Require municipalities to include a land acquisition and development plan and programme within their Spatial Development Framework plans.
  • Introduce a new comprehensive land administration system that accommodates both on-register and off-register land tenure situations such as in communal land areas, informal settlements, farm dwellers, communal property associations, etc.
  • Establish a national coordinating structure to “drive a coherent and co-ordinated spatial framework for South Africa” as recommended by the High Level Panel.

Afesis-corplan is willing to participate in any land reform policy development process. Land for sustainable settlements is already a key focus area of Afesis-corplan and we are open to investigating opportunities for collaboration and partnership with government and others in pursuing land redistribution, land tenure reform and spatial restructuring.

For examples of submissions made by other organisations to the Constitutional Review Committee looking into expropriation without compensation, see :




Expropriation – call for comments

Land expropriation is a hot topic at the moment as parliament calls on the public to make submissions on the issue of expropriation without compensation by 15 June 2018.The article Expropriation: Key to more Equitable Land Distribution, or Expensive Folly?  written in 2011 by Rob McGaffin for the Afesis-corplan Transformer Journal Volume 17 no 3 is still very relevant to the current debate.




Call for the establishment of an urban land commission

By Afesis-corplan

The idea of establishing an urban land commission to provide an appropriate institutional response to land redistribution in cities solicited a heated debate during the Urban Land Dialogue hosted by the South African Cities Network (SACN) in Port Elizabeth on March 27th. Geoff Bickford of the SACN argued that while the land debate often focused on rural land and agrarian issues, “yet over the coming decades, urban areas are set to change dramatically. More people live in cities and they require more houses and services, public transport, jobs, and places of recreation and learning – all of which take up space and need land.” He argued that the establishment of an urban land commission will provide the appropriate institutional response to land redistribution in cities.

The establishment of such an “urban land commission” builds on the recommendation made by the Parliaments High Level Panel on Key Legislation that calls for a “coordinating structure” led by the office of the deputy President to be responsible for driving a coherent and co-ordinated spatial framework for South across urban and rural areas of the country.

A lively debate on this issue ensued with one participant, Rofhiwa Taula, who is studying towards a degree in human settlement studies at the Nelson Mandela University (NMU), arguing that an establishment of yet another land commission will be a waste of tax-payers’ monies. “We need land transformation. It is must happen now to ensure that we avoid social instability. The proposed urban land commission is not going to help because we already have the Housing Development Agency which assists in facilitating state owned land to fast track the delivery of houses closer to economic opportunities; therefore, the land commission which we are now calling for will be useless.In short, the instrument is already there,we simply need to focus on implementing it” Taula argued.

Another participant, Moki Cekisani, argued for an equitable share of land in the country. He said that “the land question still causes a lot of division between black and white South Africans. It is ownership of the land that is still making us think about being black and being white. Whites own about 87 percent of the land blacks own 13 percent, even though they are the indigenous rightful owners of the land. This is what’s causing anger and division amongst our people in the country.”

Representing private property owners, Ron Pask of the Port Elizabeth Inner-city Housing (Pty)Ltd which is made up of some 4900 properties said 85 percent of the rates they paid to the municipality were spent on disadvantaged communities.

Representing and speaking on behalf of Afesis-corplan, Ronald Eglin argued that “there appears to be confusion as to what an urban land commission is all about, most people would agree that some form of institutional structure is needed to get government, the private sector and civil society stakeholders together to discuss what they would like the metro to look like in future and find ways to make sure that the right people are able to access the right pieces of land and use it for the right reasons.”

This dialogue was attended by stakeholders from NMU, Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Municipality, Mandela Bay Development Agency and members of various other government, private sector and non-governmental organizations operating in and around the metro. Its objective was to advance the inclusive urban land transformation discussion.




Daily Dispatch article: Give priority to ‘managed land settlement’

In the Daily Dispatch today Afesis-corplan specialist for sustainable settlements Ronald Eglin writes about what government needs to do to avoid land grabs.

Read the article Give priority to ‘managed land settlement’




Learning Brief #12: Equitable Access to Land

Land redistribution is a hot topic in South Africa. Some are saying that the constitution needs to change so as to speed up land reform and land redistribution while others claim that it is not the constitution that is the problem, but rather weak land reform implementation and elite capture of the land reform process. What does the constitution actually say about land redistribution? What legislation is there in support of land redistribution? What is the state doing to implement land redistribution? Click on the link to read the full Learning Brief.




A new framework law for land reform

The much anticipated Report of the High level Panel on the Assessment of Key Legislation and the Acceleration of Fundamental  Change was published on 22 November 2017.

The report draws attention to a number of serious problems with South Africa’s land reform programme and makes recommendations for how legislation can be used to address these challenges. In particular Afesis-corplan notes the following three issues raised in the report and strongly supports the associated recommendations.

  • Efforts to redistribute land from whites to blacks  (as required by section 25(5) of the constitution) has been exceedingly slow, and the target group for land redistribution has shifted away from the poor to a larger group that includes the more well off;
  • People living in communal land areas, informal settlements, farms and in other off-register areas still do not have adequately secure land tenure as required by section 25(6) of the constitution; and
  • Apartheid spatial patterns still persist more than 20 years after the new democracy with the majority of previously disadvantaged people still living in overcrowded former rural homeland areas and in informal settlements and townships on the periphery of our urban areas.

The report makes the following recommendations in an attempt to address these problems.

1. Develop a new Land Reform Framework Act

“The Panel proposes new framework legislation that …

[will provide] a coherent and consistent set of guiding principles; definitions of key terms such as ‘equitable access’; clear institutional arrangements (particularly at district level); requirements for transparency, reporting and accountability; and other measures that promote good governance of the land reform process. It would also allow government to consider both urban and rural land reform as part of a broader land reform programme, designed to address the spatial restructuring objectives of the National Development Plan, and thus address spatial inequality.” (page 223)

2. Develop a new Land Records Act

“The Panel motivates for the enactment of a Land Records Act … [that will establish] a robust, inclusionary land rights administration system to … recognise and administer land tenure rights that are insecure. … There are two key sides to this proposed law: firstly, the idea of having different categories of rights being made ‘visible’ and, secondly, the elevation of such rights to constitute property.” (page 481)

3. Establish a new co-ordination structure responsible for spatial development

“The Panel recommends the establishment of a co-ordinating structure responsible for spatial development, similar to the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), which will be able to drive a coherent and co-ordinated spatial framework for South Africa … led by the Deputy President.” (page 462)

Also see  Afesis-corplan’s previous submissions to the HLPKL in 2016 and Afesis-corplan’s previous post on The 4th R – Restructuring.




Comments on the Communal Land Tenure Bill

The emerging Land Governance Transformation Network ( LGTN), of which Afesis-corplan is a member, has made a submission on the Communal Land Tenure Bill (CLTB) to the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. To see a copy of the LGTN submission click here.

“The submission questions the assumption that ‘communities’ are appropriate vehicles for owning land.  … The approach we advocate is to start with existing rights in households and families and building up a national legal-administrative infrastructure that will accommodate all off-register rights in the country. We believe that new tenure legislation should … recognise [land] rights by reference to people in households and families as the basic rights-holding units rather than large collective entities that should only play a governance function. We propose bringing these rights into a recorded system of rights that is able to recognise individuals in families or households. The system should be set up to articulate with the Deeds Registry, which should be modified to allow for new institutional formats.

“Our argument is that the key focus of new law should be rebuilding a [land] administrative framework across the country. This would involve expanding the existing land administration infrastructure for all off-register rights to allow for recordal of rights in a range of contexts, including:

  • the communal land areas;
  • farms;
  • informal settlements, including those undergoing upgrading;
  • occupied buildings;
  • Communal Property Associations and Trusts.”

For similar arguments made by Afesis-corplan for a new land records system see Learning Brief 8: A New Land Records System




Edging towards Site and Services

by Ronald Eglin

Numerous speakers and participants at the National Department of Human Settlements summit in Gauteng from 21-22 September 2017, attended by Ronald Eglin, indicated a growing appetite, both within communities and within government, to seriously consider the promotion of ‘site and services’ as a new approach to human settlement development in South Africa. A resident from Eldorado Park, south of Johannesburg, was quoted by one of the speakers as saying: “just provide us with serviced sites; we will then build houses for ourselves’.

There appears to be a growing realisation within the country that with housing demand sitting at about 2.1 million households (as reflected in governments housing demand data base) and increasing at about 200,000 households per year – and with the housing subsidy quantum now standing around R190,000 per household (including a contribution towards land purchase costs, services installation and the construction of the top structure); we as a country just do not have enough funds to build RDP houses quickly enough to house everyone. Some of the key recommendations emerging from the summit included refocusing on the upgrading of informal settlements, prioritising rental accommodation (especially in well located areas), improving the targeting of housing subsidies to those most in need, widening support for Human Settlements to include more emphasis on finance linked individual subsidies as well as serviced sites, and reviving the Peoples’ Housing Process with an emphasis on appropriate housing and development support to help people help themselves.

Afesis-corplan supports this shift to serviced sites, or what we and others call managed land settlement, but notes that this comes with a need for government to:

(1) relook at how land is made available for human settlement development so that well located land is prioritised for new settlement growth;

(2) find ways to encourage the densification of these site and service and other areas;

(3) expand the range of tenure options available to government and households for how land can be ‘held’; and

(4) partly restructure the role of the Department of Human Settlements from one of building houses to supporting people to build their own houses.

Afesis-corplan predicts that adopting such an incremental settlement approach will not only provide more people with at least basic services and tenure security – restoring their dignity of having a safe and legitimate place to stay; but it will also help towards the creation of more quality living environments.

Afesis-corplan calls on government to speed up the process of consulting on and finalising the new Human Settlements policy and associated legislation so that we as a country minimise the uncertainty associated with any transition period from the past of building RDP houses to one of emphasising informal settlement upgrading and serviced site development (and only top structures for the truly destitute, such as the aged, and disabled). In the short term we call on government to immediately start a series of site and service, development support, rental housing and other pilot projects to demonstrate how this new, more incremental human settlement approach could work.