Crack­down: Joburg jails burst­ing with mi­grants

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - KHAYA KOKO

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.

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