Joburg mayor has no vision for the poor

2017-10-15 06:18
Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba. Picture: Jabu Kumalo

Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba. Picture: Jabu Kumalo

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Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba’s violent campaign of evictions in the inner city has left hundreds of poor families displaced, killing at least two people last month. The evictions were carried out in apartheid-style raids, under the ploy of cleaning up the city centre and recovering illegally occupied buildings.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of SA have labelled the raids “inhumane” and a short cut to dealing with the housing crisis in the inner city. The ANC has also accused Mashaba of being “anti-poor” for his non-response to “the illegal occupation of land” in and around the city.

The apartheid regime’s spatial development plans ensured that black people were outlawed from living in the city. But since the early 1990s, the inner city has become home for the African diaspora from across the continent, including black South Africans. South Africa’s urbanisation rate of 1.21% has resulted in more than 60% of the population living in urban areas, in pursuit of better opportunities.

But government’s inability to make inner-city accommodation affordable has resulted in many living informally in dilapidated high-rise buildings, flats, houses, rooms, parts of rooms, balconies and bed-sharing arrangements.

Although Joburg 2030’s plans include “looking at rental stock in light of the fact that many low-income households may migrate over time to cities”, it is unclear how this will be achieved. The cheapest rental accommodation, provided by the private sector – which Mashaba will invite to come up with proposals to restore dilapidated buildings in the inner city – costs about R1 700 a room each month. But the average household in the city earns less than R3 200 a month.

It seems the plan for solving the housing crisis entails an overreliance on private sector investment, which inevitably excludes low-income households.

Mashaba’s recent anti-immigrant sentiments are not unique to the DA. Two years ago, the ANC-led government raided the inner city as part of Operation Fiela. It targeted foreign nationals and assaulted and arrested them. It is a typical government response to criminalise, displace and evict the poor without any meaningful engagement about how to make inner-city living affordable.

If the campaign was about clean, safe and affordable accommodation, Mashaba’s administration would not be in contempt of two court orders for failing to relocate the families it forcibly evicted. The city’s strategy, it seems, is to make life so intolerable for the poor that they are permanently forced out to make way for private developers to provide the kind of unaffordable accommodation which most inner-city residents cannot afford.

Nhlapo is a researcher at the EFF

Read more on:    herman mashaba  |  da  |  eff  |  service delivery

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