Picture: Khaya Koko/The Star

Johannesburg - An organisation representing families living in an abandoned Doornfontein building whose wall collapsed on Monday, killing three children,  blasted the City of Johannesburg for failing to provide safe alternative accommodation for destitute residents. 

This comes hours after three children died while two others were rushed to hospital after a wall in an abandoned warehouse building in which they were living collapsed in downtown Johannesburg.

The three deceased were aged three, five and 10, while the two injured children were aged five and six. 

City of Joburg firefighters said about 30 shacks were cramped in the abandoned warehouse building at the corner of Davies and Rockey streets. 

The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) in a statement said it had been asking the City of Joburg for emergency accommodation for eight months, but none had been provided.

"The residents have been aware that the building is unsafe for some time. Since mid-2017, SERI has been pressing the city to provide the residents with emergency accommodation, which would have allowed them to move out of the dangerous building to safer accommodation elsewhere.

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"In July 2017, city officials produced a report for mayor Herman Mashaba, strongly recommending that the residents be provided with alternative accommodation. The city did an audit of the residents in August 2017. Yet, for eight months thereafter, the City has taken no steps to provide the residents with a safe alternative. The residents were left in unsafe accommodation as a result.

SERI added that: "The residents are just 300 of an estimated 100 000 people living in abandoned properties in the inner-city, many in unsafe conditions. The occupiers of these properties are forced to live in abandoned buildings because they cannot afford to rent or buy housing on the private market, and the city has failed to provide affordable rental housing or shelter accommodation for them.

"The city has a Constitutional duty to provide the residents of 39 to 41 Davies Street, and people like them, with affordable, safe alternative accommodation, but has consistently failed to do so. The city’s plans are to provide a mere 364 new beds in temporary accommodation this year. That is a tiny fraction of what is required to cater for poor people living in Johannesburg’s abandoned buildings." 

Adding to this was SERI’s director of litigation Nomzamo Zondo, who said: “The city must do better. It is not acceptable that there is literally no accommodation available for people, such as the residents, who are living in profoundly unsafe conditions. 

"Tragedies like today’s wall collapse could be avoided if the City allocated more resources to basic, safe and decent accommodation to very poor people, such as the residents of Davies Street, as it is legally required to do”.