Joburg executive mayor Herman Mashaba has lashed out against “so-called human rights lawyers”, saying that their court challenges are thwarting his efforts to resolve the city’s housing crisis.
In March, lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) lodged a court action against Mashaba on behalf of 28 residents living under a bridge in Hillbrow, saying Mashaba’s administration inner city clean-up operations led to the group finding itself homeless.
“The difficulty is that there is not a proper precedent on what is to be given back if somebody from the City has already destroyed the materials of the people,” said LHR’s Louise du Plessis.
In the latest incident, hundreds of residents were evicted from an inner city building called Fattis Mansions in Jeppestown, notoriously known as “mnyamandowo” [open to all]. The dilapidated building has neither running water nor electricity, and the lift was dysfunctional.
Earlier this month seven people died when the Cape York building – another building found to be inappropriate for human habitation – caught fire. The city authorities barred residents who wanted to return after it was officially sealed off.
Speaking to Primedia this morning, Mashaba said it’s not his responsibility to provide refugees with housing.”I don’t run national government. I have written to international organisations like the UN and so-called human rights laywers to assist with crisis”, he said.
The mayor emphasised that when he came into power on DA-led coalition that dethroned the ANC at Metro Centre just a under a year ago, he “inherited a [housing] crisis” which was allowed to rage unmitigated by the previous ANC administration.
To expeditiously resolve the matter, Mashaba said he has identified a number of hijacked buildings, most of which are unfit to be occupied, and the City will be issuing a request for proposals from property developers interested in converting high-rise buildings into apartment blocks.
The mayor said the United Nations together with its housing agencies should also assist the city in finding a sustainable housing solution as most of those currently seeking accomodation are refugees.
“There is a housing backlog of about 152 000, and I am supposed to find all these people accommodation,” Mashaba added.