The recent Joburg CBD fire incident that claimed the lives of two people leaving others injured, was yet another grim reminder of the current state of the City of Joburg, spurring concerns about safety.
Amid continued reports of deadly fire incidents, there have been pleas for the city's executives and officials to take action against building owners, as inhabitants of hijacked structures are at risk.
This latest incident follows the deadly fire in which 77 people died after a fire broke out in a five-story building, also in the Johannesburg CBD last year.
Among those who have voiced their opinion about Joburg slipping into a failed city is Adjunct Professor Alex van den Heever of Wits University.
In an interview with eNCA, he claimed that the Johannesburg CBD was turning into a crime scene. And laid the blame squarely on government, “I think the culprits lie really within the municipal government, including its various agencies, including the Johannesburg property company. If you had to look now at the Johannesburg CBD, it is now a crime scene overall. There is complete neglect from one end to the other. It looks like a failed state. And this should not be the case in essence in Gauteng, which has been up until now the economic hub of South Africa.
Van den Heever added: “So when you see something like this, it is invariably because of the endemic corruption. Now the public officials who are responsible for reasonable oversight and management of the assets of Johannesburg, it’s public buildings as well as municipal infrastructure, don't have any incentive. They are making money from its destruction, not from its upkeep. Then there’s no other explanation for what we are seeing. It’s extremely worrying because the collapse is rapid at this point.”
The DA which also expressed concern about the hijacked buildings, called on Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi, and Joburg Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda, to advise what steps will be taken to prevent further fires and loss of life.
In a media statement, the party said it was clear that nothing has or is being done to safeguard the residents from hazardous structures and conditions in the hijacked buildings.
“It is concerning that the City of Johannesburg has failed to provide information on what they have done to address hijacked buildings and prevent further fires and loss of life.
“The DA urges that the government engage building owners and stakeholders to address the issue of high-jacked buildings. Furthermore, efforts should be directed towards relocating occupants, fighting building hijackers, and repurposing condemned structures.”
ActionSA said it would utilise every legislative tool available to force the City of Johannesburg to recapture seized structures before another life was lost.
The party called on Gwamanda to take the city into an era where hijacked buildings would be a thing of the past.
“Last September, the Council Programming Committee rejected two of the ActionSA-sponsored motions, citing the frivolous inquiry initiated by the Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi, which, to date, has bore (sic) no fruit.
“Our motions had intended to: Recommend the City of Johannesburg Council expropriate hijacked buildings and hand them to investors to convert them into affordable rental units.
“And to recommend that the Council convert the sectional title buildings into social housing. We have always maintained that there is no need for an inquiry: the former Johannesburg Mayor, Herman Mashaba, has laid a solid foundation in terms of dealing with the hacked buildings within the city,” said ActionSA.
The party claims that the most recent fire on the intersection of Commissioner and Nugget streets, which resulted in the deaths of two people, was yet another reminder of an administration that had become disconnected from reality, and favoured band-aid repairs over long-term solutions.
“This could have all been avoided had the city heeded our calls and reclaimed hundreds of these hijacked buildings, which are not suitable for human occupation.”