'No data to support Mashaba's claim on hijacked buildings' - Africa Check

Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba.
Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba.

Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba’s claim that 80% of people living in hijacked buildings in the city are foreigners is not accurate. This is the view of Kate Wilkinson, a senior researcher at non-profit, fact-checking group Africa Check.

Mashaba previously claimed the city found that 80% of people occupying hijacked buildings were foreign nationals.

He said this as he announced that his mission was to hand over such buildings to developers who would turn them into affordable accommodation.

However, Wilkinson said their research has revealed no evidence to support Mashaba’s claims.

“We looked at inner city as a whole and there is no data that supports the mayor’s claim. If you look at Stats SA, if you look at surveys conducted, there is no data that shows that 80% of inner city residents are foreign nationals,” Wilkinson said on Radio 702 on Tuesday.

But she added that there is a chance the data has not captured all foreign nationals, “but the responsibility lies with the mayor to produce evidence to support his claim”.

According to Wilkinson, a report by a department in Mashaba’s office directly contradicted his statement.

“If we look specifically at hijacked buildings, the City of Joburg’s social development department report for July 2017 shows that of the five buildings that were raided, there were 183 residents profiled. Of those, 30.6% were found to be foreign nationals and 25% were found to be undocumented foreign nationals. And this is a report from the city which directly contradicts statements which are being made by the mayor.”

In his defence, Mashaba said whether lawlessness amounted to 80% or 1%, it is still illegal and must be dealt with.

“One percent law infringement is unacceptable to me and the City of Johannesburg. So don’t really get me involved in arguing with me about 80% or 25%. Twenty-five percent is already too high to run a proper city,” he said.

Mashaba said he did not understand the relevance of Africa Check’s findings that his 80% claim was not accurate.

Wilkinson said the mayor cannot use statistics in his claim and allude to that they do not matter when they are proven to be false.

“You can’t use a statistic as the basis of your rhetoric and argument about rejuvenating the inner city and then when that statistic is questioned you say, 'well statistic doesn’t actually matter whether it’s 1 or 80%'. As a publicly elected official and as a representative of the city, you are responsible of disseminating accurate information,” said Wilkinson.

During the interview, Mashaba also reiterated that his remarks on undocumented foreign nationals were not xenophobic.

He said that a xenophobic person is someone who advocates hatred of people from other countries and that definitions of a xenophobic person cannot be brought “anywhere closer to me”.

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