Mashaba admits City failed Soweto residents hit by tornado

City of Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba  (Leon Sadiki, Gallo Images, City Press, file)
City of Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba (Leon Sadiki, Gallo Images, City Press, file)

Johannesburg – City of Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba on Thursday released a damning report detailing how flaws in the City's processes contributed to the destruction of houses when a tornado struck in Protea Glen, Soweto, in December.

The investigation was launched after residents complained that their homes were damaged in the storm due to shoddy workmanship by contractors.

"Residents told me they had complained on numerous [occasions] to building contractors about the quality of their homes but their pleas fell on deaf ears," Mashaba said.

During a media briefing, Mashaba told journalists that three City officials from the department of planning and development had already been suspended in connection with the investigation for "refusing to cooperate with officials".

At least 3 162 homes were affected, costing the City an estimated R180m, he said.

The investigation found that roofs were wholly or partially blown off, walls had easily given way to strong winds and residents' goods were left vulnerable to the elements.

Unregistered contractor

"The report paints a picture of both a severe storm which caused damage and housing projects fraught with irregularities."

The investigation found, among other things, that stand numbers were issued with two different approval dates for the construction of houses, a lack of occupancy certificates, poor record keeping as well as no proof of pre-inspection of homes during the construction phase, he said.

"There are strong signs of serious flaws with some of the City's internal processes," Mashaba continued.

Preliminary findings have also revealed one of the contractors was not registered with the National Home Builders' Registration Council (NHBRC).

Mashaba said some construction companies attempted to escape responsibility by offering to assist residents to repair their homes.

"Their involvement is concerning given that they carry similar projects throughout the province," he said.

Mashaba said all the contractors responsible for the shoddy work would be identified.

There will be no "kangaroo court" against them. Instead, he wants a proper forensic investigation, and discussions with the companies - some of whom operate nationally - to explain themselves, before deciding what to do next.

Planners in the City's housing department will also put the companies "under close scrutiny" and the City manager will take it up with the provincial and national housing departments who are supposed to make sure builders and contractors are registered with the NHBRC.

"But one thing I can assure you is: There are going to be consequences. We need justice for the residents for Johannesburg."

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