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Nothing has changed in Alexandra, says Human Rights Commission

City of Johannesburg and provincial government have not responded to Commission’s July 2021 report.
Filthy water, apparently from a broken pipe behind the portable toilets, gushes down Gousblom Crescent in Silvertown informal settlement, Alexandra. Image: Masego Mafata

“Residents of Alexandra are still living in deplorable conditions and the situation is disturbing,” says South African Human Rights Commission Gauteng provincial manager Buang Jones.

On Monday, the Commission conducted an inspection in Alexandra, following its joint report with the Public Protector in July last year which called for urgent intervention to correct human rights violations in Alexandra.

In the report, the Commission and the Public Protector made several findings against the City of Johannesburg, the Gauteng Provincial government and the South African Police Service.

The report was released following the Alexandra Inquiry held in 2019 after protests rocked the township earlier that year. The inquiry heard submissions from residents, government officials, and others about overcrowding, poor policing, and lack of water and sanitation services in the community. The inquiry also looked at allegations of corruption in the Alexandra Renewal Project (ARP) — a project initially worth R1.3 billion, launched in 2001.

Jones said the City, the provincial government, SAPS and Metro Police had been given 60 days to respond after the release of the report, “but we have not received any formal responses to date”.

“We decided to embark on this visit to assess progress made in implementing the Commission’s recommendations and directives,” said Jones.

While there was “some improvement in some parts of Alexandra”, there had been no significant change since the release of the report, he said.

Some residents of Silvertown informal settlement, located along the heavily polluted Jukskei River, said conditions in Alexandra had not changed since the 2019 protests.

“We want things to improve and we want Alex to develop because maybe we can get jobs through that development,” said Hlengiwe Ngada.

Garry Mahlase, a 22-year-old who has lived in Alexandra since he was eight, said he has watched the area deteriorate.

“We are still using portable toilets that are only cleaned once a week and we are still living in cramped conditions,” he said.

During the inspection, GroundUp saw sewage running down potholed Gousblom Crescent in Silvertown. Residents said the dirty water had been running for weeks.

Ntando Mbabali, who uses a wheelchair, said it was already difficult to get around because of the potholes and cramped conditions. “The sewage just makes things worse,” he said.

Overcrowding also continues to plague the township, said Mothibi Segopa from the Alexandra Land and Property Owners’ Association.

He said that there are new shacks everyday and when you call the municipality they don’t arrive.

During a briefing at the City’s region E offices after the inspection, director of the City’s housing department, Patrick Phophi, said they had plans to address inadequate housing – one of the key shortcomings identified in the report. He said temporary units could be used “to decongest overcrowded areas like the Stjwetla informal settlement”. Shipping containers have been converted into temporary units.

Phophi said the City was in the process of allocating services to sites identified for relocation in Frankenwald and Linksfield but funding challenges had delayed progress.

Vinolia Mashiane from the Housing Development Agency said no deadlines had yet been set for plans to address housing and decongestion in Alexandra.

SAPS and the Johannesburg Metro Police Department also attended the briefing. They said law enforcement had been strengthened through the establishment of an anti-land invasion unit and through visible policing, where officers are deployed in hotspot areas.

Jones urged the City and the provincial government to submit their responses to the report by May, when the Commission will host another inspection and engagement.

If they did not respond by May, Jones said, “The commission is weighing its options, which include a possible subpoena hearing. But we are hopeful that we will not have to resort to using our powers to compel compliance.”

© 2022 GroundUp. This article was first published here.

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You cannot legislate yourself out of poverty even if you tried !!!!

Economics is all about scarcity. The market mechanism, with property rights and the price signal, is the fairest and most efficient method to allocate scarce resources.

Socialism presupposes an abundance of resources. Socialists live under the impression that the economy is like the sky or the sea, without limits or constraints. This is why socialism is a mirage, a pie in the sky, a fantasy, a pipe dream. Socialists are either delusional, or they are naive and ignorant, and in most cases, they are all of the above.

The idea that people have rights to stuff that they did not produce, or cannot afford, is a total misconception. If they cannot produce it and are unable to afford it, they cannot have a right to it. If some arbitrary law gives people a right to the stuff that they did not produce and cannot afford to buy, that law must expropriate someone else who worked for it, to give it to those who did not work for it. Such a law will infringe on property rights and is tantamount to legalized plunder.

Alexandra displays the fallacy of human rights. Property rights determine human rights. Human rights cannot exist without property rights. The situation in Alexandra and the record-high national unemployment rate proves this point.

Don’t quote me but I have sympathy for councils. I’ve watched how Council tries to fix housing between two towns here.

They set up a new area with water, sewers and electricity, tarred roads, parks, schools and all. Have to fence and patrol it then maybe it does not get invaded before the housing starts.

Then, as soon as the houses go up and people from lists get houses, you see almost every house put up a backyard shack to rent out, despite the house being free along with free basic water & electricity and no rates & taxes.

Within a year the formal housing development looks just like the informal housing it was supposed to fix. The infrastructure for 2,000 houses cannot cope with 30,000 people with result the sewers back up and solid waste piles up on any open piece of land.

In rural areas a very large chunk of this has to do with that land tenure act in regard seemed property ownership for farm workers. Probably a million people moved off generally decent farm accommodation to the towns. It would have made more sense to encourage worker housing and have the state provide formal housing for retired farm workers.

Unintended consequences galore!

Maybe but about farm workers Johan but, for the farmer, Having “retired” workers on the farm is a real danger. They can claim the land and EWC beckons. They can have multiple threats to the farm; dogs, stray cattle and goats, fire, tenants who turn out to be thieves etc etc. Large numbers of farmers have encouraged workers to have their own properties in tribal areas or towns and transport them every day. Finally, many farmers have cut down on their labour due to minimum wage costs, regulation (CCMA mad rulings) and mechanisation. Many jobs have become seasonally contracted with many foreigners.

It is a mess.

Paul:

If there was a system where a farmer can continue to provide workers with accommodation but said workers do not earn tenure on their home even if they no longer work for the farm, life would be simpler.

Farmer Brown provides Accommodation as he has for 100 years. When they retire, the state by virtue of its obligation and forty years of labor deductions provided retired workers with accommodation, and Johnny that replaces Peter retired gets Peter’s housing on the farm : all cool.

Nobody expects Sanlam to provide housing to its retired workers. The land tenure act was insane. Basically it meant farmer Brown by virtue of providing housing sold that plot and house to a person that may or may not be his worker and his grand children could live there. That was a well intentioned but insane idea.

The idea had predictable outcome : any rational farmer evicted all workers rather than deal with infinite generations of ever increasing number of people living on the farm whether working there or not.

There are HUNDREDS of farm schools that got idled by this insanity. Millions of people needing rural town housing while you see all those walls with destructed roofs and shuttered windows on farms.

We VERY effectively demolished a few million homes on farms for people that has to move to rural towns with no infrastructure.

Insane

End of comments.

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