Johannesburg - The laws of South Africa favour foreigners and encourage lawlessness, says MMC for Transport in the City of Joburg, Kenny Kunene.
Kunene said syndicates were exploiting these “weak” laws to continue their criminal behaviour.
Kunene was speaking to the media on Albert Street, next to the five-story building that caught fire and resulted in the deaths of more than 80 people who had made this former shelter their home.
He said these syndicates, which are mainly illegal foreigners mostly from Zimbabwe and Nigeria, are behind the hijacking of buildings and renting them out to people.
"The biggest challenge for us as a city is that when we try to respond to this, it is the law. The law of South Africa protects criminality. The property laws of South Africa protect criminals who hijack buildings. Today, in Turffontein and Rosettenville, you go on holiday, and when you come back, people are staying in your house. When you try to take them out, they call the police and say ‘you have rented the house to us, and now they want to evict us’. Now you have to go to court to evict them," he said.
Kunene said evicting criminals who have hijacked buildings should not be difficult because a crime has been committed by virtue of an illegal occupation.
"Once there is an illegal foreigner, a crime has already been committed. The problem is the law because the law says that before you take them out, you must find an alternative accommodation for them," he said.
Earlier in the day, the City of Joburg’s Council Speaker Colleen Makhubele, who visited the site of the inferno, said the loss of lives could have been avoided.
Makhubele said the scourge of hijacked buildings across central Joburg, illegally occupied, continues to be a headache for the city as several non-governmental organisations stand with the illegal dwellers.
"I am sure you saw at some point that MMC Kenny Kunene (as acting Joburg mayor at the time) was dealing with the issue. He got a lot of backlash, and he was taken to court for dealing with an unsafe, hijacked city that is non-compliant," Makhubele told journalists outside the building.