Johannesburg - The City of Johannesburg has denied responsibility for the vandalised Dube Hostel in Soweto, saying it was being renovated by the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements (GDHS), which it said it was in talks with for a possible handover of the apartment block.
Earlier on Tuesday, the GDHS said it was shocked by allegations that it has neglected the hostel in Soweto, South of Johannesburg.
Vandals have stripped off the roof, doors, windows of already from 416 renovated residential apartment units at the hostel. The apartments which were renovated at a cost of R230 million had not be occupied because of a rent payment dispute between some residents and government.
Departmental spokesperson Keith Khoza said GDHS handed the Dube Hostel over to the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan in line with the mandate to hand over hostels to municipalities.
“We transferred the hostel to the City of Johannesburg. What we will do as the province is to assist them to rebuild the place and allocate to beneficiaries,” said Khoza, adding that "the hostel was the full responsibility of the City".
He said the GDHS was calling on City of Johannesburg Mayor, Herman Mashaba, "to take full responsibility" because the hostel falls under his municipality.
Mashaba, who is a member of the Democratic Alliance, was voted in as mayor in August last year, by a coalition of parties including the Economic Freedom Fighters to make up the new administration.
The mayor has recently been criticised by the African National Congress (ANC), which lost the elections and was ousted from power in the city, for allegedly mismanaging finances and purging its members from management positions in the City.
“The City of Johannesburg was supposed to fix and allocate the units to the hostel dwellers but they failed to secure the funding to renovate the hostel and later hit a backlog, as a result, nothing has been done to date,” said Khoza.
He said the GDHS handed over the renovated units to the City before they were vandalised.
“The [Human Settlements] MEC [Paul Mashatile] is calling upon the City of Johannesburg to do the right thing and what is expected of them, to speed up the process of appointing the service provider to fix the hostel. He further said that the City of Johannesburg cannot shift responsibility whenever they are found wanting,” said Khoza.
Responding to the comments the City said: “Historically the Dube Hostel was run and administered by the City, where it was also mandated and responsible for the provision of basic services such as; water, electricity, sanitation and refuse collection".
Speaking on behalf of Mashaba, media specialist Siyanda Makhubo said the City continued to provide these services on the site.
He said in 2008 the GDHS initiated a new housing project in a bid to revitalise a number of hostel buildings in Gauteng. Dube Hostel was one of those residential buildings identified to undergo revitalisation through the development of additional units. Construction kicked off in 2009 where close to 230 family units were built.
"At all material times, the programme was and continues to be run and administered by the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements (GDHS) and not by the City’s Housing Department," said Makhubo.
He said for a period of about two years prior to the 2016 local government elections, some residents who were unhappy about paying rent for the family units decided to loot the incomplete apartments. The apartments were vandalised. Taps, electrical wiring, fitted units and ceiling boards were stolen.
Makhubo said disgruntled residents claim that the ANC-led provincial government promised to give them the family units under the state sponsored free "RDP housing" scheme. This, he said, then led to a number of protests at most newly redeveloped units.
"As matters stand, the City only entered talks with the GDHS on the possibility of handing the incomplete Dube flats over to the City as to finally complete the project and address the housing needs of the Soweto community."
Should an agreement be reached on the transfer of the housing project, the City will be in a position to complete the work and allocate units to those on the waiting list.
He said the Johannesburg Housing Company will be responsible for making sure that this process is administered and that residents are allocated decent housing.
"The new administration is confident that all of the City efforts will act to restore the dignity of Johannesburg’s poorest communities, especially the forgotten communities like those of Dube," said Makhubo.
"The comments from the MEC’s Office are thus extremely unfortunate. We would request that the MEC clarifies the position with members of his administration."