Alexandra residents’ basic human rights were violated, says the Human Rights Commission

The rights to dignity of the people of Alexandra were not protected and respected by the City of Johannesburg (CoJ), said the chairperson of the Human Right Commission (HRC), Bongani Majola

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and the HRC on Friday presented their joint findings of a two-year investigation into violent service delivery protests in Alexandra township, Johannesburg.

This followed an inquiry looking into the social and economic conditions of people living in the township. 

Mkhwebane and Majola announced the investigation in May 2019. 

“Evidence gathered during the investigation, including the observations made by the investigation team during an inspection in loco, found that CoJ has not provided sufficient municipal services to the community of Alexandra in a sustainable manner,” Mkhwebane said. 

She added that they found that housing was inadequate and this had resulted in land invasions and the illegal occupation of houses.

“Our investigative team also noticed failure or undue delay to issue title deeds to lawful owners of existing houses, and overflowing manholes, blocked drains and an unpleasant stench in hostels. There were observed potholes in the streets due to a lack of maintenance,” said Mkhwebane. 

The investigation was prompted by news reports about the #AlexTotalshutdown protests that took place in 2019. 

“When Alexandra was burning, we had to respond. We owe all the knowledge about the community struggles faced by that community to journalists. Although we discourage violent protests, sometimes the slow pace of service delivery necessitates this. We call on all communities to avoid conflicts when frustrated,” said Mkhwebane.

Majola said their joint investigation has clearly painted the failure of the government to address socioeconomic rights issues facing the people of Alexandra and in many other areas.

“There is massive overcrowding in Alexandra, we are very concerned that these factors potentially make Alexandra a ticking time bomb for unrest and future service delivery protests,” said Majola. 

But, Mkhwebane said, they note and acknowledge practical and significant steps taken by the City of Johannesburg, which was evident from its baseline plan.

HRC commissioner Jonas Sibanyoni  said they were also waiting for a response from the department of social development on their request for the department to establish a permanent office in Alex.

“The investigation has revealed inadequate provision of social welfare services to the people of Alexandra. The Gauteng department of social development  failed to develop and implement adequate social relief programmes and a social welfare centre or social infrastructure within Alexandra for people who are in need of social protection,” Sibanyoni said. 

According to Mkhwebane, they had noted during the investigation that significant strides have been made for the provision of housing in Alexandra. 

“However, there are still some challenges as identified by the community. In essence, the community stated that the provision of housing remains woefully inadequate and manifests itself in the following socio-economic challenges within Alexandra,” Mkhwebane said.

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Chris Gilili
Chris Gilili is a climate and environmental journalist at the Mail & Guardian’s environmental unit, covering socioeconomic issues and general news. Previously, he was a fellow at amaBhungane, the centre for investigative journalism.

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