Alexandra's non-renewal in focus

Stjwetla informal settlement along the Jukskei River in Alex. / Simphiwe Nkwali/
Stjwetla informal settlement along the Jukskei River in Alex. / Simphiwe Nkwali/

The failed Alexandra Renewal Project (ARP) has once again come under scrutiny at the inquiry into the poor socioeconomic conditions that have plagued Alexandra township.

Yesterday, the inquiry conducted by the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and the public protector heard from ARP beneficiaries who alleged they were taken from their homes in different parts of the township and placed in rooms to rent in a new development between 2009 and 2010.

Residents who called themselves the anti-rental committee told the commission that they were expected to pay rent to foreign nationals who acted as their landlords.

"Which country does that to its citizens?" asked committee chairperson Pheladi Makelani.

The allegations shocked the panel. Provincial manager at the HRC Buang Jones told Sowetan government had to account on how it has handled the people's grievances and attended to their needs.

"This project [ARP] was aimed to improve the physical, social and economic environment in Alexandra. We are getting a sense that there were no significant benefits," Jones said.

"It was harrowing to hear about the plight of so-called tenants where people who are supposed to be beneficiaries of RDP pay rent. It is unheard of and is something that we need to get to the bottom of."

ARP was one of eight urban nodes of the integrated sustainable rural development and urban renewal programme announced by former president Thabo Mbeki during his State of the Nation Address in 2001.

The programme was meant to address urbanisation and housing challenges in SA.

In 2011, the estimated ARP budget stood at R1.3bn over seven years. Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba has already instructed the city's Group Forensic and Investigation Services to investigate the project.

The City of Johannesburg and Gauteng government are expected to answer today on their role in the controversial project and the money they spent in Alexandra compared to suburbs such as Sandton.

Gauteng cooperative governance & traditional affairs and the city will make submissions to the hearings.

The inquiry comes just a month after residents brought the township to a standstill during the Alexandra total shutdown last month.

Residents demanded that Mashaba come and listen to their problems. Mashaba later said the unrest was coordinated by the ANC.

Organisers of the total shutdown told the inquiry yesterday the protests had nothing to do with politics but lack of basic services. These included lack of road maintenance, mushrooming of illegal structures, land invasion, poor refuse collection and lack of development.

Jones said: "We want to establish how they have responded to the grievance and human rights issues raised by the residents. the spending patterns, resource allocation ."

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