Home PodcastInayet Wadee Inner city of Johannesburg suffers as hijacking buildings increase

Inner city of Johannesburg suffers as hijacking buildings increase

by Salaamedia Intern
Hijacked buildings are a danger to all those who live around it Photo Pexels

Johannesburg – The hijacking of residential buildings in South Africa has been on the rise. While the city of Johannesburg has tried its best to reclaim buildings, many are lost to syndicates which turn them into hubs of criminal activity. 

Hijacked buildings are not only a loss to the owners but also the municipality. When a building is hijacked, the municipality loses any rate payments from it, explained Angela Rivers, General Manager of the Johannesburg Property Owners and Managers Association (JPOMA). The only ones who win are the hijackers. 

“The biggest issue with building hijackings is the only people who win are hijackers. They the ones who are taking all the money. The municipality lose money because building hijackers are definitely not going to pay their utilities or their rates. The landlords loses and the tenants are the ones who suffer the most and not just the tenants in the hijacked buildings. The tenants in the surrounding buildings because these buildings become a safe haven for criminals and gangs. It is a loss for everyone.”


The buildings which are hijacked the most

Buildings which are hijacked are often left to deteriorate and become a health hazard to those living in and around it. Residential buildings are the ones prone to hijackings. Specifically, buildings owned by the municipality, said Rivers. 

“What we are finding are the buildings that are hijacked are buildings that are not well managed or owned by the city. The city’s own social housing buildings are being hijacked because they are not being managed properly. A perfect example of this is a building called Casa Mia where the building was released for social housing in 2012 and they have 180 units. That building is now fully hijacked. The city has lost control of it. The issues we have with the building is our members have properties surrounding Casa Mia. Our tenants are being attacked, intimidated, gunshots are fired between Casa Mia and the buildings around it. It has really become a safe haven for the criminal elements in Berea and Hillbrow.”

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Hijacking syndicates seem untouchable

The sad reality is once a building is hijacked, it can take many years to get it back. Sometimes due to legal systems and other reasons. Rivers believes the syndicates are often paying off members of the municipality in order for them to look the other way. 

“I find it very difficult to believe that after five years of a city-owned building being hijacked the city can’t do anything about it. I hear regularly the city has gone to do an inspection. They go in and come out. Never to be seen again. That’s suspicious to me. You go in there to do a roll call, to see who is in the property and then you disappear and never come back. It just deteriorates every year. My JPOMPA member who have the building next door to Casa Mia are unable to rent out an entire side of the housing because it is just too dangerous for tenants. I know that there are a lot of city officials who are making a whole lot of money from building hijackers.”

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The inner city is a shell of its former self

While Johannesburg is often talked about as being a world class African city, it is far from it. Rivers has worked in the inner city for the last 16 years and she has seen it go from bad to worse. The past three years has seen it deteriorate at an alarming rate with crime gradually increasing and nothing is being done to help residents. 

“I have to say in the last three years I have seen more deterioration than I have in the last 16 years. When I was in the inner city 16 years ago, that was the height of crime. It was so dangerous. I have to say, the last three years have been the worst. Crime has increased. These buildings become safe havens. The criminals can literally smash and grab and run into one of these buildings and disappear into oblivion. No one knows who is in those properties. No one knows how many people are there. So, they have really become the main issue of health and safety within the inner city.”

Areas like Hillbrow, Berea and the surrounding areas are some of the worst in the inner city. There are many hijacked buildings in Hillbrow which is directly proportional to the rise in crime. It is almost as if the city has forgotten Hillbrow, exclaimed Rivers. 

“It is very upsetting and it is one of the highest residential, high density spaces in Johannesburg. These are the poorest of the poor who we should be protecting and looking to uplift.”

The unfortunate situation is even places of worship are not even safe. There have also been reports of police officers being attacked and killed. Unfortunately, the pleas of Rivers and others have fallen on deaf ears. She is currently in the process of drafting a letter to the City of Johannesburg and hopes this letter will garner their attention. As long as buildings remain hijacked, the inner city of Johannesburg and its residents will continue to suffer. 

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