Bulk of municipal services lacking in Alex: public protector report

In April last year, Alexandra residents protested about crime in the area and the lack of service delivery. File image
In April last year, Alexandra residents protested about crime in the area and the lack of service delivery. File image
Image: Alon Skuy

Lack of law enforcement, service delivery and provision of housing are some of the findings of an investigation by the office of the public protector and the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) after violent service delivery-related unrest in Alexandra in 2019.

“The investigation revealed that the management and delivery of bulk municipal services in Alexandra by the CoJ [City of Johannesburg] does not accord with the duties imposed on it by the constitution and the applicable law,” said public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane in the report released on Friday.

To remedy the adverse findings, the city manager and the City of Johannesburg must, within 60 working days of the date of the report, table a copy before the municipal council.

In the two months following that, the city must submit a detailed project plan to address basic service delivery issues.

This includes maintenance of the Helen Joseph Women’s Hostel and Madala hostel, de-densification of Alexandra and refuse removal and identification and cleaning of illegal dumping areas.

The investigation, Mkhwebane said, revealed that the City of Johannesburg had not provided sufficient municipal services to the community of Alexandra in a sustainable manner.

They looked, among others, at the issues of maladministration, access to water, sanitation, education and health.

The probe also found the following service delivery deficiencies:

—  Inadequate housing which has resulted in widespread land invasion and property encroachment;

— Failure or undue delay to issue title deeds to lawful owners of existing houses;

— Overflowing manholes, blocked drains and an unpleasant stench in hostels;

—  Potholes in the streets due to a lack of maintenance;

—  A general lack of maintenance and degradation of buildings at hostels which has resulted in damaged plumbing systems, poor illumination and unhygienic conditions.

Uncollected refuse or waste lying strewn along walkways and corridors within the informal settlements and heavily polluted surface water in the Jukskei River due to uncontrolled dumping of waste and raw sewage was commonplace.

The report also noted that on average seven families had to share a chemical toilet, while it was only cleaned or drained once a week by Pikitup.

Other findings included the mushrooming of illegal structures on every open piece of land, illegal evictions and congestions, overcrowding in the hostels and lack of maintenance.

Tension in the community was fuelled by dissatisfaction by those on the housing list for a long time but are still waiting for houses. This also gave rise to incidences of vigilantism and criminal groups amid allegations of irregularities in the awarding of houses, and councillors implicated in these alleged deals.

The investigation also revealed there was lack law enforcement in Alexandra, which had resulted in the prevalence of crimes against property.

The following are some of the prevalent crimes in Alexandra:

  •  Lawlessness in the form of illegal occupation of land;
  •  Encroachment of pavements;
  •  Informal trading;
  •  Illegal connection of electricity;
  •  Illegal dumping of waste;
  •  Uncontrolled influx of illegal immigrants;
  •  Malicious damage of state property and infrastructure; and
  •  Lack of enforcement of traffic laws.

“SAPS and JMPD [Johannesburg Metro Police Department] have not placed sufficient measures in place to address the inadequacies identified in law enforcement in Alexandra. The conduct of the SAPS and CoJ/JMPD accordingly constitute improper conduct as envisaged in section  182(1) of the constitution and maladministration in terms of section 6(4) (a)(i) of the Public Protector Act,” Mkhwebane said.

Despite these findings, the public protector’s office said it had noted “significant” steps the city had taken to meet its obligations, from its Implementation Baseline Plan to commit.

“It is further acknowledged that most of the adverse findings made in the interim report are already mitigated as most projects have been completed while others are still under way,” Mkhwebane said.

It was incumbent on the city to ensure consistency in the delivery of the municipal services as indicated in the Implementation Baseline Plan, said the public protector.

“The conduct of the CoJ accordingly constitutes improper conduct as envisaged in section 182(1) of the constitution and maladministration in terms of section 6(4) (a)(i) of the Public Protector Act. However it is to a large extent mitigated by projects that are already completed as per the furnished Implementation Baseline Plan.”

The operational plan should include any collaboration with other law enforcement agencies, including the SAPS.

In line with this, the national police commissioner is directed to, within 30 working days, with the city come up with a plan of how they will tackle the issues of lawlessness in the area.