Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba has exaggerated the extent of illegal occupation in inner-city properties, say lawyers on both sides of the long legal battle over “bad buildings”.
Since taking office, Mashaba has repeatedly promised to “reclaim” the inner city of Johannesburg.
In his “first 100 days in office” speech last week, Mashaba accused these “so-called human rights lawyers” of “using the courts to keep people under these conditions to the benefit of the slum lords”.
In an earlier speech to the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) in October, he vowed to tackle “criminals protected by the judiciary”.
On both occasions Mashaba said that he would assemble his own team of “human rights lawyers to assist us to reclaim the inner city from criminals and slum lords”.
He told businesspeople at the JCCI that he was talking to the best lawyers in the country to sort things out.
The lawyers that Mashaba has blamed for perpetuating slums include those from the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of SA (Seri), which has been fighting eviction cases in Johannesburg for years.
It is uncertain what Mashaba’s new team of lawyers will do, as Seri and the city are already heading to the Constitutional Court in February to argue the case that has left the eviction of almost 4 000 people in the inner city in limbo since 2014.
Nomzamo Zondo, director of litigation at Seri, said Mashaba’s aggressive rhetoric against human rights lawyers and inhabitants of bad buildings hardly represented a departure from the views of the ANC administration.
“This whole fascination with property owners and what they can do for the city – it is something that was always there, even during [ANC mayor Parks] Tau’s tenure ... Mashaba is just more upfront about it,” she said.
She said it was still worrying that the city was not seeing people, but only bad buildings.
At the very least, they were now trying to engage on issues surrounding people living inside these buildings.
She said Mashaba has gone further in labelling the poor occupants of these dilapidated buildings drug dealers, slumlords and illegal occupants.
Mashaba has argued that he could bring in “passionate and dedicated” developers with the potential to invest R20 billion in the construction of new and better housing.
Regarding e-tolls, City Press understands that 2017 could see a serious showdown between Sanral and lobby group Outa, as the two parties head to court.
While e-tolls were a major campaigning point for parties during this year’s local government election, none has managed to initiate a credible process to get them scrapped.
The DA, which secured two of Gauteng’s major metros, is yet to come up with a solution to the e-toll impasse.
In questions posed to the DA mayors of Tshwane and Johannesburg, both reiterated their opposition to e-tolls, but could not identify any efforts in their first 100 days of office to put a stop to them.
“Mayor Mashaba has stated on a number of occasions that he understands that the removal of e-tolls cannot happen at local government level.
"While he continues to oppose e-tolls, he has stated that the only time they will be removed is when the DA wins the national government elections,” said Mashaba’s spokesperson, Tony Taverna-Turisan.
Meanwhile, Tshwane Mayor Solly Msimanga’s spokesperson, Sam Mgobozi, said:
“After assuming office, there are myriad priority items on the new administration’s agenda and this is one of the things we are looking into in further detail.”
Premier David Makhura this week tabled his political report, which took a firm stance against corruption, but didn’t shed any light on the way forward on e-tolls.
Outa’s Wayne Duvenage told City Press that they were resolute in their bid to see the removal of e-tolls, indicating that things will come to a head next year.
“The major gain is the development of the legal defensive challenge which is unfolding between our legal team and that of Sanral.
"This showdown will unfold in 2017 and all indications are that Sanral has a very weak case. Having issued over 6 000 summonses several months ago, not one case has been taken to court.
"Their last straw will be to enforce compliance through the vehicle licensing process. If they chose this route, they will be directly inviting the e-toll revolt into the vehicle licensing arena,” a confident Duvenage said.