An investigation into the thousands of Johannesburg properties that were destroyed in a storm late last year has concluded that not only were homes improperly constructed, but one of the implicated developers was seemingly operating illegally and not registered to build. Three officials were suspended for refusing to cooperate.
On December 30 last year, a violent storm caused extensive damage to some 1 326 properties in the Southern and Western low-cost housing developments and informal settlements of Johannesburg.
The investigation, carried out by the City of Johannesburg’s group risk and audit services (GRAS), was initiated by City mayor Herman Mashaba, and the findings were released on Thursday.
“The investigation found that the damage caused to these properties was a result of excessive wind force and the severity of the storm,” Mashaba said in a press release.
“However, the use of poor design and construction methods and substandard building materials in alterations or additions made to properties, such as those found in boundary walls put up by property owners, left some properties far more exposed to the storm.”
In addition to this, the investigation raised concerns around the registration of construction companies that were doing business within these areas, he said.
The investigation found that of the two developers responsible for the construction of the affected houses, one appeared not to be registered with the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC), as is required by law and as such is a criminal offence.
“Attempts by the City to fully verify this matter with the NHBRC came to no avail,” said Mashaba. “This is something which the NHBRC is yet to answer to.”
The investigation also sought to examine the City’s own processes with a view of correcting our own internal weaknesses, Mashaba said. Three officials from the City’s department of development planning have been suspended pending further investigations for refusing to cooperate with the investigation process.
The City further found that there was no proper record and filing system at its building development management, resulting in challenges to produce records in a timely manner.
“This state of affairs was evident in that files requested for audit purposes were not submitted to the investigation team,” Mashaba said.
The City’s GRAS made a raft of recommendations.
However, “Ultimately, the regulation of housing matters rests within spheres of government outside that of our own,” said Mashaba.
“The City has committed to introducing measures to correct weaknesses within our operations which we hope will increase compliance.”
Mashaba said he would write to notify the Gauteng MEC for human settlements and cooperative governance and traditional affairs of the findings as well as request that provincial and national government prepare an action plan for disasters of a similar nature in future.
“I assure residents that, as we move forward, we will continue to do all that is within our power to ensure that there is appropriate consequence management for those implicated by this report and ensuring the City is suitably equipped to address similar disasters in future,” Mashaba said.