River Park residents frustrated at long delay to complete the building of flats

Unused and incomplete: Residents are dismayed by lack of decisive action on these flats. Pic by Ramatamo Sehoai

An unfinished block of flats in River Park near Alexandra township north of Johannesburg has infuriated the local residents who scramble for every piece of land for human settlement. They recently invaded the flats that were built in 2009 but left incomplete. Now wanting to make their occupation permanent, they want to know who owns the flats and why they have been left in that condition.

Alexandra, Gauteng, South Africa

An unfinished block of flats in River Park near Alexandra township north of Johannesburg has infuriated the local residents who scramble for every piece of land for human settlement. They recently invaded the flats that were built in 2009 but left incomplete. Now wanting to make their occupation permanent, they want to know who owns the flats and why they have been left in that condition. Given the acute lack of land and housing in Alex, especially for people who have been on housing list since 1996, there can be no excuse for such wastage.

“As far as I know these flats were built to accommodate delegates of Football For Hope in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Thereafter they would be turned to ease the housing backlog in the township, but after the contractor went insolvent, that couldn’t happen and they have been incomplete ever since. The new contractor could not be appointed,” explained Mokgadi Radebe, the previous Councillor of Ward 81.

The construction of the flats was a provincial department project and as such, the Johannesburg municipality has not taken custody of the failure. “We remain waiting but surely these demonstrations will trigger a response from the provincial government,” said Radebe. She said that during her term as councillor, she fought tirelessly for a speedy resolution to these flats but her pleas fell on deaf ears. She said the money is even wasted on the security guarding these idle buildings.

Another predicament as Radebe further explained was that the structure of these flats  is of a communal type where people would have to share toilets and a kitchen and this is not an ideal future housing development for the people of Alexandra and River Park. “We are large families and we want our privacy,” she said, fuelling speculations that these flats will be demolished, just to put a resolute zero at the end of seven years sitting empty.

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“That’s what they know. Wasting money instead of delivering services to the people,” said one of the protesters, Duma Kulashe. He vowed they’ll never back down on their pursuit for housing until something happens.

The current Councillor of Ward 81, Irene Rugheimer warned the residents not to illegally invade the flats. She said these flats in their current state are dangerous and not habitable. “The province will make an assessment and advise of the decision to be taken,” she said.

Speaking on behalf of the MEC for Human Settlement, Paul Mashatile, Keith Khoza told the residents that the MEC and his team are hard at work to find a long lasting solution to the housing challenge of Alex. This will include the finalisation of the River Park flats.

“They have been saying that for ages. We can’t wait for them. It’s time now that people stand up and fight for their rights,” said Mpho Baloyi, also protesting to occupy these flats.

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