Who authorised demolition of Alex shacks? Inquiry expected to find out

Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba paid Alexandra a visit on Monday after around 80 homes were demolished by the Red Ants last week.
Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba paid Alexandra a visit on Monday after around 80 homes were demolished by the Red Ants last week.
Image: Kabelo Mokoena

The inquiry into alleged human rights violations in Johannesburg's Alexandra township is likely to hear on Wednesday exactly who authorised the demolition of 80 shacks built on illegally occupied land.

This was according to Buang Jones, provincial manager at South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), on Tuesday.

The inquiry - by the SAHRC and the public protector’s office - is aimed at investigating alleged corruption and possible human rights violations in Alexandra. It follows a spate of protests in April over a lack of housing, water and sanitation, as well as overcrowding.

It will also look into allegations of corruption in the R1.3bn Alexandra Renewal Project (ARP), launched in 2001 to develop the township.

Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba visited the area on Monday and said he did not know about the demolition until he heard about it in the news. He promised that heads would roll when he found out who had authorised the demolition, which left hundreds of people homeless.

Acting spokesperson for the mayor, Olebogeng Molatlhwa, said Mashaba had written to city manager Ndivhoniswani Lukhwareni requesting him to initiate an independent investigation into the process followed during the eviction.

"That investigation will determine where the instruction to carry out the evictions and demolitions came from," said Molatlhwa. 

Lukhwareni is due to testify at the commission on Wednesday.

According to Molatlhwa, the Red Ants were carrying out an eviction order obtained in September 2016.

"It's clear that this was not an act based on the order. The decision was based on something more sinister. Evil forces were behind this and we will get to the bottom of it," said Mashaba on Monday.

Mashaba promised those affected by the demolition that the city would rebuild their homes within the next month.

According to Molatlhwa: "The rebuilding process will focus on creating suitable temporary structures, with the aim of relocating those affected in the long-term through a structured development plan."

He said of immediate importance to the mayor was correcting the actions taken last Friday, specifically "respecting residents’ human rights and restoring their dignity".

"Meetings between relevant departments will continue to be held to pave the way forward, especially as it relates to the rebuilding process and the long-term relocation of the affected residents," he said.

Meanwhile, Jones told SowetanLIVE  publication TimesLIVE that he has been continuously contacted by an unknown man warning him to "steer clear of the Alexandra investigations".

He said the threatening phone calls started three weeks ago and he had reported them to his line managers but not the police.

"We are working on tracing the numbers but have so far been unable to find out who it is. The man is unknown by me," he said. 

Jones said he believed he is being targeted because he joined the investigation into the Alex "shutdown".

"They are uncomfortable because I speak my mind and I am independent ... but I am committed to the struggle of the poor. I am a product of an informal settlement. I used the bucket system. I can relate to land occupation. I lived in a shack. My struggles made me who I am," he said.

The investigations are ongoing and could take about three months, added Jones.

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