Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Alexandra - City of Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba on Wednesday responded to the service delivery protest currently underway in Alexandra, saying he "deeply sympathised" with the challenges faced by residents. 

On Wednesday morning, a protest flared up in the area as residents accused the city of Johannesburg of failing to stop the rapid growth of illegal structures and vowed to press on with the protest until they heard from Mashaba.

Police have since confirmed that the protest was under control and that no major incidents had been reported thus far. JMPD earlier confirmed that two 'ringleaders' had been arrested for public violence.

Mashaba in a statement said he "noted protests taking place in Alexandra". 

"I deeply sympathise with the challenges experienced by the residents of Alex. For decades, the people of Alex have continually been let down by previous administrations in the provision of housing and addressing migration into the communtiy.

"Indeed, during the local government elections of 2016, the ANC, province and the previous administration committed to providing investment into the area so as to address housing challenges and development in the area.

Mashaba further said: "This commitment was made without any financing and consolidated strategic plan for meeting the commitment – it was nothing more than an empty ANC promise. This is not only true for the people of Alex but the city as a whole".

He added that since coming into office, the DA-led multi-party government had consistently sought to engage province and national government in securing funding that could be used to not only adequately meet housing demands within the city but also address the massive migration challenges.

"On both counts, the city’s attempts at engagement have fallen on deaf ears.

"As the new administration, we are working to progressively meet the housing demand and development needs of our communities within our available resources and bring Diphetogo to communities.

He also confirmed that the city had already begun its inner revitalisation project "aimed at creating affordable housing opportunities for those in our poorest communities. In addition we have made room for development within the City through budget allocations in our adjustment budget".

Regarding reports of lawlessness in Alexandra, Mashaba stressed that policing remained the competency of provincial and national government. 

"Within our limited jurisdiction, the city is working to keep communities safe through the acquisition of 1500 new JPMD officers who are set to complete training soon. This will allow the city to provide increase visible policing in communities, especially our informal settlements.

He slammed the ANC for its utterances on the alleged sale illegal occupied stands in the area, saying it was ironic because the party's Dan Bovu, former Housing MMC, was implicated in this type of illegal activity. 

Bovu was arrested and charged with fraud for allegedly trying to sell vacant land in Vlakfontein through a trust in 2006. The charges against Bovu have since been withdrawn.