Supply and demand determine property prices- Bhekithemba Matsebula

30 April 2024

Bhekithemba Matsebula is the Director of Housing and Human Settlements in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. In our latest civil servants’ blog, he talks about the regulation of the real estate sector, township development as well as plans to implement a Green City concept as means to adapt to climate change effects.

Government Communications (GC): “When did you join the Civil Service?”

Bhekithemba Matsebula (BM): “I joined the Civil Service on 30th June 1997 as an Assistant Immigration Officer under the Ministry of Home Affairs.”

GC: “What is your current job now and what does it entail?”

BM: “My current job is that of Director, Housing and Human Settlements tenable in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. Appointed in March 2016, my job entails ensuring that the Department of Housing and Human Settlements performs at its optimal in an efficient and effective manner. Reporting to the Principal Secretary, my responsibilities include: managing the planning and growth of housing and human settlements in the country; initiating the formulation of policy legislation in line with contemporary best practice for housing and human settlements; facilitating the provision of housing by the public and private sector; monitoring the preparation, review and implementation of physical development plans at national level (NPDP), regional level (RPDP), local level (Town Planning Schemes and Rural Local Development Plans); administering all legislation pertaining to housing and human settlements i.e. Human Settlements Act, Town Planning Act, Sectional Titles Act, Crown Lands Disposal Act, etc; managing the strategic planning process of the Department; advisory member of Eswatini Housing Board; preparing and overseeing the recurrent and capital projects budgets for the department of Housing and Human Settlements; as well as advising the Minister on issues pertaining the growth and development of housing and human settlements in the country.”

GC: “Before this role, what other positions did you occupy in the Service?”

BM: “Before my current role, I have occupied the following positions:

  1. a) Senior Physical Planning Officer, Department of Housing and Human Settlements, Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (October 2013-February 2016);
  2. b) Senior Housing Officer, Department of Housing and Human Settlements, Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (June 2006-September 2013);
  3. c) Research and Development Officer, Department of Housing and Human Settlements, Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (July 1999-May 2006);
  4. d) Assistant Immigration Officer, Immigration Department, Ministry of Home Affairs (June 1997-June 1999).”

GC: “So far, what would you say the biggest highlight/achievement of your Civil Service journey has been?”

BM: “Thus far, my biggest achievement in my Civil Service journey is the attainment of a Master of Science in Housing from the University of the Witwatersrand, fully sponsored by Eswatini Government. To date, I am the only Civil Servant with this qualification. From a work perspective, ensuring that Hlatikhulu has in place an approved Town Planning Scheme for the first time since joining the Ministry has been one of my notable achievements. Finally, my active role in the development of Buhleni Municipality in my capacity as the Director, Housing and Human Settlements stands out as another of my notable achievements in the Civil Service. Starting an urban local authority from scratch is no easy task.”

GC: “What is the biggest project that you have been involved in working for Government”

BM: “One of the notable projects I have been involved in working for Eswatini Government is the successful piloting of the Sectional Titles Act of 2003 as Amended in 2018 and Sectional Titles Regulations of 2020 in both Houses of Parliament. Since joining the Ministry on 1st July 1999, my first task was to advise Honourable Ministers as they tabled the piece of legislation from day one until it was successfully passed. The journey included its presentation before Liqoqo (then Swazi National Council). Similarly, when the Ministry could not implement the piece of legislation, I was instrumental in identifying the Sections that needed to be reviewed. Finally, I was central in the formulation of the Regulations which were also successfully piloted in both Houses of Parliament. As my baby, I am proud to have been involved in this massive task which was a first of its kind for the country.”

GC: “There are usually concerns from members of the public about the ‘unregulated’ nature of the housing/real estate sector and how this leads to what may look like inflated prices. What steps is the Ministry taking to address this issue?”

BM: “Whilst the Ministry is cognisant of the concerns by members of the public on the unregulated real estate sector, my Department has responded through the formulation of a Real Estate Agency Bill whose aim is to regulate the operations of Estate Agents in the country. Over the years, the Ministry has made attempts to regulate the industry but failed due to budgetary constraints. However, the Ministry’s efforts to regulate the real estate sector do not per se translate into regulating property prices as these are determined by the market, in particular supply and demand factors. Presently, the country operates on a free economy that does not permit the control of property prices, as such can lead to the stifling of the property industry. Property prices are determined by a host of factors such as location, architecture, neighbourhood, and availability of requisite infrastructural services among others.”

GC: “In some townships around the country, there seems to be a mushrooming of housing projects with little regard to the availability of key infrastructure such as roads? What does the Ministry do to ensure that housing projects in these areas meet all laid down standards?”

BM: “The country is characterised by a number of townships both in rural and urban areas. They are mainly divided into formal and informal townships. What defines a formal township is a submission of the establishment of a township application to the Human Settlements Authority under the auspices of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. Anything falling outside this purview is regarded as an informal township/human settlement. Whilst the Ministry is presently working with the country’s local urban authorities in formalising these informal settlements, rural areas continue to lag behind as they are governed through Eswatini Law and Custom under Traditional Leadership. However, as a Ministry, we do extend our planning and housing sector to areas on Eswatini Nation Land upon invitation by the Traditional Leadership.”

GC: “Due to climate change and other factors, it is becoming hugely important for city/town planning to be forward looking and ensure that cities and towns can withstand adverse weather effects. What steps is the Ministry taking to ensure that our cities and towns are built sustainably?”

BM: “From a planning point of view, we encourage all our towns/cities to set aside some land parcels for public open spaces (active and passive). Presently, the Ministry, in collaboration with various stakeholders, is working on the implementation of a Green City concept aimed at assisting our towns/cities adapt to climate change. Furthermore, our towns/cities are encouraged to have in place Disaster Management Plans to offset the challenges posed by climate change. The Ministry is also pursuing the introduction of innovative housing materials that are adaptive to climate change effects.”

GC: “What do you love the most about working in Government?”

BM: “For me, working for Eswatini Government is fascinating as you learn new things every day. The working environment is conducive, promotion is on merit not favour, there is room for growth in one’s career, capacity building in the Civil Service is central and job security, among other factors.”

GC: “What do you love the most about your job and profession?”

BM: “What I love the most about my job is assisting members of the public, local authorities, Ministries/Departments and the private sector on matters revolving around housing and human settlements. Formulating pieces of legislation and policy framework has been one of my key highlights. Lastly, my work involves a lot of travelling to all the country’s 15 urban local authorities which allows one to observe the different patterns of human settlements taking place throughout the country.”

GC: “What would you say are some of the challenges that come with your job?”

BM: “The main challenge of my job entail the sensitivity revolving around the disposal of Government/Crown Land in the country since land is an important resource. In the country, land oversight is spread through a number of Ministries such as Commerce, Industry and Trade (Industrial), Tinkhundla, Administration and Development (Rural), Natural Resources and Energy (Farmland outside urban areas) and Agriculture (Agricultural). This scenario complicates the administration of land in the country as it sometimes leads to overlaps.”

GC: “What lessons have you learnt working for Government?”

BM: “For the longest time, Government has been a stepping stone for employees who wanted to get the necessary experience and then exit to join the private sector. However, this has since changed recently as a number of professionals are now leaving the private sector to join the Civil Service. This shows the level of trust these professionals have for Eswatini Government. Such a competitive environment is healthy for the country’s labour market.”

GC: “What advice would you have for someone who wants to work for Government?”

BM: “Contrary to popular belief, Government is now a competitive employer of choice. It has largely transformed from its old self to be a number one employer. She may not have the requisite competitive benefits like medical aid and others but working for Eswatini Government gives one a sense of belonging and fulfilment. What I like the most about Eswatini Government is the capacity building opportunities availed to civil servants to pursue their studies full-time or part-time. Sponsorship by Eswatini Government in her capacity as employer is readily available to all civil servants who are willing to pursue their studies.”

GC: “What are your aspirations for the future in Government?”

BM: “My future aspirations in Government is to ensure that my Department is the centre of excellence where quality professionals are produced for both the public and private sector. This is against the backdrop that growth is inevitable in the work place. I want to ensure that professionalism is central to the operations of my department. Overall, my wish is to see Eswatini Government having the relevant pieces of legislation and policy framework for the benefit of the country’s citizenry.”


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