ActionSA, under the leadership of Free State Provincial Chairperson Patricia Kopane, has raised serious concerns about the Free State Department of Human Settlements' recent failure to spend R600 million of its budget. This unutilized amount is now set to be returned to the Treasury, despite the pressing need to address the region's housing backlog, estimated at 11,000 units.
Commitments not Delivered
In his State of the Province address earlier in February 2023, Premier Dukwana had committed to completing these unfinished housing projects in collaboration with the National Home Builders Registration Council. However, the Department’s inability to use the allocated funds, which could have significantly contributed to projects like the White City Integrated Social Housing Project, is a major setback. This project alone, valued at R110 million, has been left incomplete since the tenure of former Premier Ace Magashule.
Critical Housing Issues
Additionally, the Department’s oversights have hindered efforts to tackle other critical housing issues, such as the removal of asbestos roofing, a project plagued by the embezzlement of R255 million. Despite ActionSA’s appeals to MEC Makume to prioritize housing completion in light of increasing homelessness, these calls have been ignored.
Resident Losing Faith
The Free State’s residents are losing faith in Premier Dukwana’s administration, as the region's infrastructure continues to degrade. Doubts are growing regarding his capacity to overcome the challenges of leadership and service delivery that he inherited from Magashule.
Broader Systemic Issues
ActionSA is urging Premier Dukwana to implement effective systems to bring tangible improvements to the Free State. This includes addressing the issue of departments failing to use their budgets effectively.
The organization highlights a broader systemic issue within the South African government, noting that despite allocating 34.5% of the national budget to public sector wages, the country's institutions still fail to meet their basic responsibilities. These systemic failures are having profound impacts, undermining the social structure of South Africa, denying citizens dignity, limiting access to opportunities, and contributing to economic decline.
A Call to Action
In response to this crisis, ActionSA is calling on Premier Dukwana to fulfill his commitments to the people of the Free State. This includes reviving stalled housing projects and initiating new construction to address the housing shortage, steps that are critical to improving the situation and meeting the needs of the province’s residents.