South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) general-secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has called on government to urgently intervene in the issue of abandoned buildings in Johannesburg and other parts of the country, by converting them into social housing for the poor.
He said the government has known for years that there were many hijacked buildings in the city, but had done nothing about it.
Former mayor of Johannesburg Herman Mashaba said there were hundreds of hijacked buildings. He said this figure was arrived at when they were checking all the buildings in the city when he was mayor a few years ago.
The illegal occupation of abandoned buildings was because of a lack of governance and law enforcement in state structures, he said.
The Saftu leader also blamed corrupt police officers who take bribes to turn a blind eye when syndicates conduct their illegal activities.
The government has to intervene urgently and address the issue of abandoned buildings in cities and towns, and turning them into social housing was a viable option.
“To stop illegal occupations of abandoned buildings by desperate poor working-class people, government should build free social housing for poor people, and low-cost social housing for those who can afford in the city.
“To stop hijacking of buildings by criminals and drug dealing, government must (root out) corrupt law enforcement officials who are bribed to turn a blind eye and allow drug dealers to go unpunished,” said Vavi.
He added that this could be one of the solutions to address the severe housing backlog in the country.
The national and provincial governments have been struggling for years to reduce the housing backlog.