Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba told a gathering of disgruntled citizens that his office was completely unaware of any plans to demolish 80 homes in Alex.
Alex demolitions attract politicians
Mashaba was there after angry residents protested the demolition of about 80 houses supposedly built illegally.
“The intent of this community engagement is to establish the facts after having met with the Johannesburg Metro Police Department,” a statement from his office said.
He isn’t the first government official to visit the area because of the destroyed homes.
Gauteng MEC for Human Settlements Lebogang Maile was there on Saturday to condemn the actions of the Red Ants.
“Yes, we will demolish, but not in an inhumane manner like we have seen here. When we move people we will tell them where we are moving them, and we’ll have a process to explain how we are moving them,” he said.
Playing to the crowd
In a video posted to Mashaba’s Twitter page, the mayor claims that he will take full political responsibility for the demolition of homes in Alex.
This was shortly after completely dodging responsibility by stating that he and his office had no idea the demolitions were taking place.
“I was actually quite shocked by the images I saw on television and started making contact with the city officials to find out what really happened,” he said.
“All demolitions in the city of Johannesburg must be informed because the city gets court orders all the time for people to be removed.
“But I always ask, ‘Please I need to be informed, because I, politically, have to take full responsibility for what is happening.
“So I was really disappointed, but my office was not contacted and no-one in my office was informed about this.”
He then slammed homes built by the Reconstruction and Development Programme, claiming the illegal structures built and torn down in Alex were of better quality.
“I’m personally angry. I’m not disappointed, I’m angry. Whether you guys built here illegally or not is beside the point. The point is you dealing with human beings.
“You guys don’t live here like this because you want to live here like this. You are living like this because you do not have an alternative.
“In fact, what you people are building, compared to some of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) houses, you can build much better.
This got a hugely positive reaction from the gathered Alex residents and allowed Mashaba to move away from talking about whose fault the demolitions were by promptly promising the city would rebuild the houses within a matter of weeks.
Apology and way forward
Mashaba did extend a sincere apology from the city of Johannesburg and promised the structures would be rebuilt in a matter of weeks.
How viable this plan will be remains to be seen, especially considering the houses in Alex were built illegally in the first place.
But the promise was made none-the-less.
“On behalf of the city of Johannesburg, give me the opportunity to apologise profoundly for what happened.
“Because what happened did not have my political directive or the support of the multi-party government that I lead.
“I know an apology is not enough. So I have brought the mayoral council for housing Meshack Van Wyk and the chief of police.
“The city must make a plan within the next few weeks. The city must rebuild these buildings.
“I understand that you are here illegally and, the thing is, the city removed you illegally. Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
— Herman Mashaba (@HermanMashaba) June 3, 2019
Social media reaction
While the crowd present in Alex seemed to be fairly receptive of Mashaba and his apology, there were even shouts of ‘viva’, South Africans on social media were not quite as forgiving.
Still investigating and all this happened under his nose..
I remember when he made fun out of @CyrilRamaphosa saying president is shocked but now he is the one that is shocked by shocking events that occurred under his leadership. pic.twitter.com/oaN0nEJ2tz
— PapaG (@George4493689Pa) June 3, 2019
So Mr Mayor are you rebuild those illegal structures in the same area? What about the bylaws, you sending a wrong message, those structures were never approved by your building inspectors, that land is not surveyed, community of Alex do not want those structures.
— Sixty (@Siga_Sixty) June 3, 2019