File photo: Bongiwe Mchunu


Johannesburg - The SA SA Human Rights Commission has accused the City of Joburg of human rights violations against women and children residing at the yet to be redeveloped Alexandra women’s hostel.

This is contained in the commission’s findings following a probe into complaints received from residents, which include a lack of provision of proper water, lack of electricity supply, and the removal of male children aged 7 and older from the hostel.

The report comes as the country marks Women’s Month, a day acknowledging not only the role played by women in the Struggle, but also highlighting the challenges they still face in post-apartheid South Africa.

The hostel is set to undergo a major redevelopment, but conditions there remain inhumane, with basic services like water, electricity and proper sanitation not accessible to residents.

It was built in 1972 to accommodate migrant women, and was designed to accommodate 2 825 beds in 727 rooms, averaging about four women per room. However, according to the commission, it is said to house an estimated 3 000 residents, excluding children.

The report was also scathing about the City of Joburg regarding the violation of children’s rights, as children were required to vacate the hostel when they reached the age of 7 years.

During the investigation, the commission conducted two inspection visits to the hostel, and the findings of the inspections are scathing about the City of Joburg.

It had not been possible to get a response from the city at the time of going to press.

According to the report, the irregular water supply and the poor state of plumbing at the hostel had a negative impact on sanitation at the hostel, while geysers there did not work regularly.

The commission found that water pipes were leaking from the upper levels of the building, causing damage to ceilings below and to residents’ movable property.

This, according to the commission, caused a foul smell, and posed a health risk to the women and children who reside at the hostel.

The stench from the laundry areas inside the buildings also infiltrated the residential blocks, as the laundry areas did not have doors.

In one incident during the inspection, the commission found that the movable property of residents who lived next to the severe leaks in the buildings was damp because of the water coming into the unit, where even children lived.

The commission has recommended that measures be taken by the city to remedy the situation, including the inspection of the hostel by an inspector from the Department of Health within three months of receiving the report.

It has also recommended that the city must prevent, with immediate effect, the intended action which would result in the removal of women with male children from the hostel.

“Children are considered one of the most vulnerable groups in society. It is of central importance that the rights of the child be carefully evaluated in the context of the complaint before the commission.

City spokesman Gabu Tugwana said the city was responding positively to the report, saying different entities and departments were addressing the issues raised.

He added that one of the main challenges was the inability of the infrastructure there to handle the large numbers of people currently residing in the hostel.

This, according to Tugwana, has resulted in dilapidated sewer network leading to a lot of sewer water leakages.

“The city has recently made available a budget of approximately R5 million to stabilise the hostel infrastructure.

“Johannesburg Water was contracted to conduct a detailed assessment and provide recommendations to stabilise the infrastructure,” said Tugwana.

Sunday Independent