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Sol running out of land

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“The municipality only owns 3.1% of land in the city, while the private sector owns 90% and the state owns 5%”

Picture: Oupa MOkoena

DEVELOPMENT in Kimberley is being hampered by the lack of available land and the Sol Plaatje Municipality is appealing to private landowners to donate unused land to the local authority.

Municipal spokesperson, Sello Matsie, recently said that the current backlog of applications for land exceeded the availability of municipal-owned land.

“The municipality only owns 3.1% of land in the city, while the private sector owns 90% and the state owns 5%,” said Matsie.

He added that while the municipality only owned 3% of land, it also needed, at the same time, to address the social needs of the community including churches, crèches, informal settlements, middle-income housing, schools, police stations and other social amenities.

“The private sector has 90% of the land which, if unused, is donated to the municipality, will assist in meeting the backlog which will become a thing of the past. The glaring realisation is that soon the municipality will run out of its major asset, namely land.”

According to Matsie, due to urbanisation and pull factors such as economic opportunities within Kimberley, the housing backlog for both informal settlements and the “missing middle”, like teachers, soldiers, police and nurses who cannot be accommodated via FLISP or BNG (RDP) programmes, is continuously on the rise.

“It is clear that there is a dire need for serviced land which will address the missing middle.”

Despite a report included in the agenda of this month’s Spelum Committee, which states that only five municipal-owned properties were sold in the 2016/17 financial year, Matsie said that a total of 59 properties were in fact alienated over the course of the last financial year. This is despite the fact that the Spelum Committee only sat for five of its 10 scheduled meetings.

Statistics provided by the Building Control Section of the municipality regarding alienations are as follows: July – no meeting; August – no meeting; September – 25 alienations; October – no meeting; November – five alienations; February – no meeting; March – 17 alienations; April – six alienations; May (10th) – no meeting; and May (24th) – six alienations.

Thirteen lease items have also been submitted to the committee for consideration.

Regarding the shortage of staff in the section, Matsie pointed out that currently there is only one employee left out of the nine who were originally suspended.

Among those who were suspended was the Building Inspector and the Technical Assistant to the Manager Building Control.

“We are using two consultants on a needs basis to ensure continuing in terms of basic service delivery and also to close the significant gap that currently exists.”

Of the nine suspended, two passed away, three were dismissed, three were issue with final warnings but two of these requested a move to an alternative section, and one case is still pending.

“Technically, seven employees were lost in this section and only one is left.”