Botshabelo residents are hopeful that the Housing Consumer Protection Bill will assist in preventing the building of RDP houses in the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality on unsuitable land prone to waterlogging. Residents were addressing the Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements at the first of three public hearings on the Bill in Botshabelo, Free State.
The residents complained that this practice led to rapid deterioration of the structures and led to people abandoning their houses as a result of illnesses caused by incessant waterlogging. With unanimous support for the bill, participants highlighted their belief that the Bill will protect the rights of beneficiaries and will eventually lead to quality RDP houses being built.
A large number of participants also raised various views regarding the composition of the Board as contemplated in Section 6 of the Bill. One view was that the board must be composed of qualified individuals with knowledge and experience primarily within the construction environment to ensure that it delivers on its mandate. A divergent view was that the Board must also consist of representatives of the Traditional sphere of leadership as it will have an impact on both rural and urban settlements.
Participants further underscored the importance of accreditation for builders and constructors as they were of the view that this will help improve the quality of houses being built. Participants also raised concerns with the level of inspections during the building of RDP houses with many suggesting that there were limited inspections being done. Therefore, they proposed that the Bill enhance the role of inspectors to ensure compliance with the building code.
Residents were also of the view that the role of the Department of Labour must be explicitly highlighted in the Bill to ensure that contractors do not subcontract to unregistered builders and undocumented migrants. In cases where labour inspectors find unregistered builders and undocumented migrants on sites Contractors must be fined.
While there was overwhelming support for the Bill, Small and Medium Enterprises feared that the Bill will add a regulatory burden to their businesses which will negatively impact their ability to conduct business. Also, there were numerous complaints that the NHBRC is not accessible to people in rural areas which will make compliance with the Bill difficult.
The public hearings will continue in Bethlehem. All interested individuals and organisations are urged to come and share their views with the committee to ensure that the final product is reflective of their will and aspirations. The committee is cognisant that these hearings happen while the country continues to face the risks posed by Covid-19 and increasing infection figures. As a result, the committee will ensure that Covid-19 regulations are implemented to ensure the safety of all participants.