Herman Mashaba’s housing plan cannot work: researcher

24 October 2017 - 12:43 By Penwell Dlamini
Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba surveys the city skyline from the roof of his offices in Braamfontein.
Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba surveys the city skyline from the roof of his offices in Braamfontein.
Image: Simphiwe Nkwali

These are views of Alana Potter‚ director of research and advocacy at the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI)‚ who spoke at the SA Human Rights Commission indaba on access to housing for migrants living in Gauteng.

Potter alerted the gathering in Braamfontein on Tuesday that Section 26 of the constitution says that everyone has 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 South Africa‚" she said.

Potter said housing eligibility criteria are found in the National Housing Code‚ which sets out all sorts of housing subsidies and programmes.

The general criterion for housing subsidies‚ among others‚ is that the beneficiary is either a citizen or permanent residence.

Potter than raised a lot of questions on the housing strategy that has already 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. You can't move poor and informal people out through raids and deportation. It is not a strategy that has worked‚" Potter said.

Potter argued that the majority of the people who are being evicted from hijacked buildings are South Africans and not foreign nationals‚ as Mashaba has 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. Furthermore‚ the city is struggling to find proper alternative accommodation for the people who will vacate the buildings while they are being renovated.