As illegal land invasions in Gauteng spike, Premier David Makhura will – as of June – give away identified vacant land to people who are prepared to build houses for themselves.

Makhura said the pace of “rapid land release” will be dependent on the willingness of mayors, and he has vowed to expose those who refuse to cooperate with him, saying they would have to answer to communities for putting their parties’ ideological postures ahead of delivery.

So far, it was only Ekurhuleni Mayor Mzwandile Masina who was ready to run with the programme, which could severely impact municipalities under DA-led coalitions in the lead-up to the 2019 elections.

“I’m going to be engaging with all the mayors and I’m hoping they will leave their ideological party positions and understand that people want land. They must stop this thing of their parties not wanting to deal with the land question decisively.

“So, if you ask me, I will be very happy if all the mayors were to stand up and say ‘premier, we are with you on the rapid land release, we have land’ and we as a province can then bring in bulk infrastructure to ensure it does not develop into an informal settlement,” he said in an interview on Friday.

Makhura said people had lost patience. They wanted land and could no longer wait for government – which was already battling with massive backlogs – to hand over completed houses.

The premier believes that 30% of housing problems in the province can be resolved through the “rapid land release” initiative, along with the mega housing projects that will be delivered over the next three to four years.

In developing the plan, he is working closely with the MECs of human settlements, infrastructure, agriculture and economic development. The final plan will be given to Makhura in early June and he will convene a premier’s coordination forum to formally unveil it to all the mayors.

“We don’t want illegal land invasions. We can’t accept them and we can’t tolerate them because the wrong people are going to benefit.

“Illegal land invasions will lead to people who are not supposed get land being given land they do not qualify for. And along the way people will be extorted – in exchange for land.

“From June we want to release land parcels to residents so people can build for themselves and not wait for government,” he said.

“There are a lot of people who say they can build houses for themselves but can’t afford land prices. Even for middle-class people, the price of land is high, especially here in the urban centres as people also inflate land prices”.

Makhura said he was often asked to intervene in communities, as was the case yesterday in Eldorado Park – which has been marred by service delivery protests, including the demand for housing.

He complained that the change of government in 2016 saw projects scrapped and others restarted. This led to communities not knowing what was going on, and the burden was on him as he had to intervene when called upon by communities.

He said if the City of Johannesburg did not sign off on the land earmarked for development, there would not be any progress.

“I am not going to help those who refuse to embrace this plan and are later faced with protests, since they do not want to respond to community issues.”

He said since 1994 the province had built 1.2 million houses, which is 30% of the national housing stock.

“Anyone who goes around saying there has been failure in housing delivery is not looking at facts around demand and backlogs,” he said, also taking a jab at City of Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba for “sobering up” after he came into office with much vigour saying he would deliver houses, only to now say he needs more time and money.

“Building more houses does not solve the problem of migration, and we cannot stop people from coming here,” he said.

The premier said the province’s delivery track record would be important as battle lines were drawn over which political party would attract voter support in Gauteng come next year – coupled with clean governance.

On Tuesday Makhura will face a motion of no confidence over what the opposition says was his “failure” to act timeously on the Life Esidimeni tragedy.

But he is confident the motion will fail, citing desperation from the DA, which is grappling with its own internal wrangling over issues of transformation.

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