Picture: TWITTER
Picture: TWITTER

The plan adopted by the City of Johannesburg to evict people from hijacked buildings in order to turn these assets into low-cost housing, is a futile exercise.

Socio-Economic Rights Institute (Seri) director of research and advocacy Alana Potter was speaking at the South African Human Rights Commission indaba on Tuesday, on access to housing for migrants living in Gauteng.

Potter told the gathering in Braamfontein that section 26 of the Constitution held that everyone had a right to adequate housing.

"Citizenship is not specified in the constitution. It does not say that everyone who is a South African has a right to proper housing. It says everyone who lives in SA [has this right]‚" she said.

Potter said that housing eligibility criteria were contained in the National Housing Code‚ which set out a variety of housing subsidies and programmes. One of the general criteria for housing subsidies is that the beneficiary is either a citizen or permanent resident.

Potter raised a number of questions about the housing strategy that has been adopted by the City of Johannesburg.

"Unlike his predecessor‚ the mayor unashamedly described undocumented migrants as illegal‚ criminals and as targets of his raids. The city’s logic — or illogic — is that by evicting or deporting poor and undocumented people‚ the city will become attractive to private investment for affordable housing.

"The picture we are seeing at Seri is that this strategy and approach is one of just futility. Evicting‚ arresting and deporting foreign nationals is making no inroads towards addressing the structural and systemic issues that drive the inner-city accommodation crisis," Potter said.

"You can’t move poor and informal people out through raids and deportation. It is not a strategy that has worked‚" Potter said.

She argued that the majority of people being evicted from hijacked buildings were South Africans and not foreign nationals‚ as Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba had insisted in public.

Mashaba recently presented a strategy before council in which he would take over the hijacked buildings‚ renovate them and make them available for affordable housing. Council adopted the plan‚ allowing the mayor to go ahead with the programme.

But this plan has received criticism‚ as it is viewed as targeting poor foreign nationals living in hijacked buildings. The city is struggling to find proper alternative accommodation for these people, who will be forced to vacate the buildings while they are renovated.

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