Crackdown: Joburg jails bursting with migrants
CHILDREN playing in filth amid a stomach-churning pungent smell that greets you from the entrance, while women stand and cook food in an unhygienic environment.
This was the nauseating setting found by The Star inside one of Joburg’s notorious hijacked buildings raided by the City of Joburg yesterday, in the continuation of its promise to crack down on dilapidated properties in the inner city.
This time, the raid occurred at Remington House in Jeppe Street in the Joburg CBD – the same street where the derelict Cape York building caught fire earlier this month, after which residents had to be relocated to Wembley Stadium in Turffontein.
So pungent was the smell inside Remington House that the team conducting the raid had to wear masks.
More than 100 people have been arrested in this month’s raids, according to Lucky Sindane, Joburg’s director of forensic and investigation services.
Sindane told The Star that the arrests of mostly undocumented foreigners were proving troublesome for the Department of Home Affairs to handle.
Sindane said cells inside Joburg’s police stations were too overcrowded to accommodate any more people.
The Joburg raids include joint operations by the city and its lawenforcement officials, the SAPS and Home Affairs.
“Home Affairs officials indicated that they could not assist us to arrest more undocumented foreigners today after we detained more than 100 in the past two crackdowns,” said Sindane.
“Those who were arrested during the past raids have still to be transported to Lindela (Repatriation Centre).
“Today, the Home Affairs officials who are helping us with our programme are busy transporting people to Lindela,” he explained.
“All the cells are packed at Johannesburg Central, Brixton and Hillbrow police stations. Home Affairs told us that we can’t arrest any more undocumented foreigners because there is no space inside the police stations around Joburg to keep them.”
Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba gave reasons for the city’s crackdown on dilapidated properties, asserting that “hijacked buildings are a major challenge in our inner city, with our people living in deplorable conditions and being abused by slumlords”.
Victoria Rammala, the city’s director for property hijackings investigation, told The Star that another challenge for the city was the massive amounts of money it was losing due to the illegal electricity connections in these hijacked buildings.
She said that Remington House, which was resplendent in electrical light yesterday, also had an illegal connection as the city had previously undertaken a level 3 disconnection where the electric cable is removed.
“It is a lot of money that we lose as a city from illegal connections – I can’t estimate the amount because I’m not necessarily dealing with it.
“But I do believe that it is costing the city a lot of money because most of the properties that are hijacked are not paying any money to the city for services.
“So, the consumption is basically free,” she said.
Joburg’s Social Development Department, Rammala added, also takes part in these raids in order to record the names of people residing there so that when the city evicts illegal occupants, they know who to find alternative accommodation for.
“But it is a huge challenge to relocate people.
“However, we are finalising a plan where the city will be acquiring properties for redevelopment to come up with low-cost housing.
“Some of the properties will be redeveloped by the city, and others will be given to the private sector to assist with terms and conditions, which the mayor will indicate,” Rammala pointed out.
Over 100 arrested in two raids, we don’t know where to put them
RESIDENTS evicted from two dilapidated flats in the Joburg CBD yesterday complained of having been relocated to unbearable living conditions.
The residents were moved to temporary accommodation at the Wembley Stadium. They claim some of their children have already missed school and that there is not enough food.
There are more than 15 tents in the stadium. Beds and mattresses are scattered over the grounds and in some tents, the interior is divided by mattresses with clothes hanging from the top of the tents, giving the occupants some privacy.
In some cases, females and males are forced to share tents.
Thobisa Mgibanthaka, one of the residents evicted by the Red Ants last week, recalled her ordeal when all her belongings were taken away from her as “horrible and unbearable”.
She has a five-year-old son who is suffering from macrocephaly.
Mgibanthaka said she needed help as she could not provide for her son, and the living conditions made it more difficult for her to care for him.
In addition, all his medication was taken from her when she was evicted from Fattis Mansion in Joburg.
“It’s very cold here… I’m only concerned about my child, he’s been losing a lot of weight,” said Mgibanthaka.
She hails from the Eastern Cape and has no family to help her in Joburg. She said she came to the city in search of work.
*Steve, who wishes to remain anonymous, has been helping the residents camped at Wembley Stadium by providing them with food and water and by taking the children to school.
The residents said Steve was the only person to have come to their rescue.
They added that the government had failed to provide them with proper temporary accommodation.
Steve said he knew all the residents of Fattis Mansion and had been working with them for a long time.
“The living conditions are unbearable. Most of the people here lost their identity documents and their children are wandering around without any uniform to wear to go to school,” said Steve.
He said the residents had slept in the streets for two days after they were evicted and the government had acted only two days later.
* Not his real name
MAJOR HEALTH HAZARD: Metro police and SAPS officers raided and searched Remington House in Jeppe Street in the Joburg CBD yesterday.