A coalition of activists, unions, and residents living in Johannesburg’s “dark buildings” is set to stage a protest on October 1st. Their primary demand is for local and provincial authorities to take immediate action to provide dignified housing for impoverished individuals as reported by African Insider.
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This call to action emerged following a gathering outside the Library Gardens in the city centre, where participants convened to address the need to prevent further tragic incidents. The catalyst for this mobilisation was the devastating fire at 80 Albert Street, one of the city’s “dark buildings,” which resulted in the tragic loss of at least 77 lives and numerous injuries.
The Inner-City Federation, the primary organiser of the upcoming protest, issued a statement asserting that these deaths were a direct consequence of the government’s failure to tackle poverty, unemployment, and the severe housing shortage. Other organisations present at the meeting included SAFTU, Kopanang Africa Against Xenophobia, the General Industries Workers Union of SA (GIWUSA), The Informal Traders Forum, and Abahlali Basemjondolo.
Mametlwe Sebei, President of GIWUSA, highlighted the responsibility of the political elite in this tragedy. He accused them of misappropriating state resources through corruption and contributing to the rising xenophobia in South Africa by scapegoating “undocumented migrants” for the fire.
Activists also criticised government officials for their hypocrisy in blaming organisations such as the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of SA (SERI) and Lawyers for Human Rights, defending the constitutional rights of people residing in these buildings against evictions.
The participants in the gathering called for an independent investigation into the cause of the Albert Street building fire and demanded compensation for the victims and their families. Additionally, they urged the refurbishment of occupied buildings and the implementing of programs to assist homeless individuals and small businesses.
Zwelethu Ndlovu, a member of the Inner-City Federation and a resident in one of these “dark buildings,” expressed frustration with politicians who make promises during elections but fail to deliver. He emphasised the need to refurbish these buildings instead of evicting their occupants, citing the PIE Act stipulating that people should not be evicted and left without shelter.
Sphiwe Mbatha from Kopanang Africa Against Xenophobia emphasised the unfairness of blaming migrants for the country’s problems. He highlighted the vital economic role played by immigrants and called for equitable government support for all residents, regardless of their origin.
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