Public works and infrastructure minister Patricia de Lille takes her oath of office in Pretoria, May 30 2019. Picture: WALDO SWIEGERS/BLOOMBERG
Public works and infrastructure minister Patricia de Lille takes her oath of office in Pretoria, May 30 2019. Picture: WALDO SWIEGERS/BLOOMBERG

Newly-appointed public works and infrastructure minister, Patricia de Lille says one of her main priorities will be to expedite the release of state-owned land for housing. .   

The state has a property portfolio of more than 93,000 buildings and more than 1.9-million ha  of land under the custodianship of the public works department.

Those who oppose the push to amend section 25 of the constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation contend that the state should focus on redistributing land under its ownership, some of which is unaccounted for, or underutilised, before the government resorts to expropriation.

During her tenure as the DA Cape Town mayor, De Lille, now the leader of the Good party, often called for national land to be released for housing.

“Yes, that will be one of my main priorities … we need to release more land for housing,” De Lille said on Thursday ahead of her swearing in.  

“That is actually what we campaigned for [the release of land] as Good and the President [Cyril Ramaphosa] is aware of this.”

De Lille, who was part of the presidential infrastructure coordinating committee as Cape Town mayor, said the development of infrastructure will be key in the drive to reignite economic growth. She committed to addressing the huge infrastructure backlog.

Western Cape premier Alan Winde said he was looking forward to discussions with De Lille on transferring the large tracts of land owned by the government for housing.

“There are five mega properties owned by the national government [in the Western Cape] at Culemborg, Ysterplaat, Wingfield, Youngsfield and Denel properties that could yield up to 100,000 housing units which would be enough to meet half of the affordable housing demand on Cape Town’s database,” said Winde.

De Lille’s appointment was one of the biggest surprises of Ramaphosa’s cabinet announcement. She had a huge falling out with the DA before resigning. She went on to form her Good party late in 2018, which won two seats in parliament in the May 8 elections.

De Lille is the only non-ANC MP included in Ramaphosa’s cabinet. She said there was nothing unusual about the appointment of an opposition leader into the executive.

“[Nelson] Mandela did it, Thabo Mbeki did it. This is nothing new. The president called me to serve the country and I agreed. We should all be asking ourselves what we can do for the country.”

However, she said she was surprised that Ramaphosa had chosen her to be part of the executive.

“When the call came from the president at about 2pm yesterday [Wednesday] asking me to come to see him, I didn’t think anything of it. I just thought the president wanted to engage with leaders of the opposition, so I travelled to Pretoria thinking I would be back in Cape Town the same day. I didn’t even carry a suitcase with a change of clothes. I had no idea I would be appointed to such a crucial portfolio. I had to rush to the mall to buy clothes for this afternoon [the swearing-in ceremony].”

De Lille said her appointment as a minister did not necessarily mean her party will work closely with the ANC in parliament.

“I am still leader of Good and we will do the job that voters sent us to parliament to do,” De Lille.

Peter Marais, the Freedom Front Plus member of the Western Cape legislature, accused De Lille of “selling out”.

“De Lille is repeating the same pattern as the one she laid down with her previous party, the Independent Democrats , which was founded after she broke away from the PAC in 2003. The ID vanished from the scene shortly afterwards when De Lille sacrificed her party, just like now, for a high position with the DA,” said Marais.

“Voters who voted for Good in the recent elections did so precisely because they are looking for a political home where coloured people as a minority will be given a voice to defend their interests against the oppression of the majority of the ANC government. But now De Lille let them down and just like with the ID, she broke their trust by accepting a position in the Cabinet of the majority party.”​

phakathib@businesslive.co.za

Former Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille was appointed minister of public works and infrastructure by President Cyril Ramaphosa on May 29 2019. Here are four colourful moments from her political tenure. Subscribe to TimesLIVE here: https://www.youtube.com/user/TimesLive