South Africa

Kunene finds girl held captive during check on hijacked buildings

The recent tragic incident of a deadly fire in Marshalltown, Johannesburg, has thrust the issue of hijacked and hazardous buildings in the city into the spotlight.

Officials are now scrambling to get the situation of hijacked buildings in the CBD under control. Johannesburg’s Transport MMC, Kenny Kunene, recently conducted an inspection of some of the buildings in the CBD that are alleged to be hijacked.

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This included an inspection of a building in Denver and Albert, adjacent to the one that caught fire in Marshaltown last week, claiming 77 lives.

Kunene likened these dilapidated structures to crime scenes and emphasised the urgent need to evacuate residents from the dangerous buildings.

Plight of residents

The SABC reported that during the inspection, officials discovered shocking conditions. Kunene reported that the building lacked basic amenities such as electricity and running water, while the roof had been turned into an improvised toilet.

The MMC said he also discovered that many rooms lacked doors, and makeshift curtains served as poor substitutes. Moreover, the inspection uncovered a slew of illicit activities within these buildings, including the presence of drugs, illegal cigarettes, alcohol, needles, and the distressing case of an 18-year-old girl who was “locked away” by a Tanzanian man who claimed to be her boyfriend.

The discovery of the girl has shocked and alarmed the MMC who has now vowed to take decisive action to address what he has now come to describe as a crisis.

Building closed

During the inspections, Mgcini Tshwaku, MMC for Public Safety in the City, announced the closure of Vannin Court in Hillbrow, a building that has now been deemed unsafe.

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Tshwaku stated that eviction notices would be issued to residents of Vannin Court, and immediate efforts would be made to place them in shelters. Furthermore, he said that the city is exploring the possibility of expropriating buildings like Vannin Court without compensation, as many of them are abandoned due to unpaid debts to security companies and deceased owners.

Inquiry

Meanwhile, the Commission of Inquiry, launched by the Gauteng government, is investigating the prevalence of hijacked buildings and identifying those responsible for the Marshalltown fire. Government has said that the inquiry aims to provide justice to the victims and ensure that similar tragedies are prevented in the future.