Executive Mayor Herman Mashaba writes:
[On 14 March], I am advised that that President Cyril Ramaphosa, in answering questions on his party’s position on land reform, sadly misrepresented the City of Johannesburg’s position on this matter.
Let me be clear, I am in full support of land restitution and land redistribution as these are efforts which seek to undo the terrible legacy of forced land dispossession which still reverberates in our society today through unequal spatial developments.
However, it is only on this that the President and I agree. It is my belief that the Constitution, in its present form, is not an impediment to land reform. I do not believe a Constitutional amendment is required to achieve land reform, and I do not support expropriation without compensation.
Indeed, the work which the City is preparing to embark on with respect to rejuvenating the inner city is proof of this and speaks to the many mechanism available to government for ensuring that our poorest residents are provided affordable housing, in safe and secure communities.
I am excited that it is our government that will be the first to test in a court the full potential of Section 25 of the Constitution, in particular the meaning of the requirement for “just and equitable” compensation.
This should be welcomed by the President and all interested in developing useful jurisprudence in this area.
It is common knowledge that the City of Johannesburg is facing a housing crisis, highlight by the following:
- The city has an estimated 300 000 housing unit backlog;
- There are some 158 000 individuals on the housing waiting list;
- The City has some 190 informal settlements; and
- An estimated 3000 individuals migrating to Johannesburg per month.
As at 30 December 2017, 265 alleged hijacked buildings have been reported to the City. These matters are all now at various stages of investigation.
This also means that too many residents living in these derelict buildings, are forced to survive under inhabitable and inhumane conditions, infringing on their rights to dignity.
It is therefore key for us to find new, innovative ways to address this crisis as part of our commitment to pro-poor development and meaningful redress.
Our plan aims to ensure that we are able to develop quality low cost housing, student accommodation, and affordable rental space for small businesses, by using the existing legal framework to expropriate these hijacked and derelict buildings in the inner city and elsewhere.
Some of these properties have been abandoned and the owners cannot be traced. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the City to ensure compliance with applicable by-laws, which in turn contributes to the degradation of the urban environment.
Where the owners of hijacked buildings cannot be located despite a diligent search, the City intends to bring an application for a declaratory order to declare that the property has been abandoned and directing the Registrar of Deeds to register the property in the name of the state.
Where owners of hijacked properties can be found, the City will consider entering into compliance agreements whereby the owners cooperate with the City to revamp their properties and have the buildings comply with our bylaws.
Should these property owners be unwilling to enter into such agreements, the City will not hesitate to commence expropriation proceedings in Court in the public interest, and within the current Constitutional framework and requirements around compensation.
Where the value of the building is less than the debt owing to the City for rates and services, the City will pursue expropriation with the view that it will be considered just and equitable to do so by simply writing off the amount owed to the City. This will be an important test case for the court to decide.
Again, it is important to note that none of this requires any amendment to the Constitution. It is entirely possible to do so within the current framework, and the City of Johannesburg will lead the way where no other government has done so for the last 25 years.
These are the mechanisms which our administration seeks to utilise in the rejuvenation of the inner city in order to provide decent and affordable housing to our residents.
After decades of flagrant neglect and a lack of political will to deal with criminality in the inner city, this administration is determined to transform the inner city of Joburg into a safe and habitable place for our residents to live work and play.
A Johannesburg that works is a South Africa that works.
Share your views on these plans for Joburg’s inner city in the comments section below