20 October 2010
Human Settlements Minister Tokoyo Sexwale, speaking at the launch of the Cavendish Chambers housing project in downtown Johannesburg, sent out a stern warning to those who hijacked buildings that the government was coming after them.
“Johannesburg has to be reclaimed – inch by inch, street by street, block by block, level by level,” Sexwale said on Tuesday, adding that he would be meeting with the police elite unit the Hawks and Police Commissioner General Bheki Cele to discuss strategic evictions of people who hijacked buildings.
Earlier, Sexwale visited residents at the housing project and went on a tour of the building, which not so long ago had also been hijacked. Cavendish Chambers is on the corner of Kruis and Jeppe streets.
When the Affordable Housing Company (AFHCO) acquired the building 2006, it was in a serious state of disrepair. It took a team of 30 labourers 40 days to clean the building.
The building has since been developed by AFHCO through funding provided by the National Housing Finance Cooperation (NHFC). The NHFC put R33-million into the project, which targets those in the R3 500 to R10 000 income group who do not qualify for a government subsidy or earn enough to qualify for a bank loan.
Sexwale said the make-over of buildings such as Cavendish Chambers helped rejuvenate and deracialise the city. Cavendish Chambers is now 75 percent occupied.
Spirit of partnership
The minister noted that over the years, Johannesburg had changed hands and, as one race group moved into it, others moved out. The challenge now was to ensure that city did not die off, but became a place for all races to live in, he said.
Sexwale urged the private sector and other organisations to work with the government to make affordable housing a reality for more people.
“We must continue with the spirit of the World Cup … that of partnership. We were able to build airports, develop infrastructure and iconic stadiums in record time because we worked together.”
The minister said that reclaiming the cities was one of the priorities of his department.
Renney Plit, the CEO of AFHCO, said his group had already invested about R1.5-billion in Johannesburg.
“Our aim is to develop units that are inspirational, so people can be proud of where they live and ultimately want to live for years in the apartments,” Plit said.
He called on the government to work with the private sector to find creative housing solutions for people who earned below R3 500 a month.
Samson Moraba, CEO of the NHFC, which provided the funding for Cavendish Chambers, said cities throughout the country were becoming derelict and needed to be reclaimed.
He urged banks to work together with the NHFC to turn around more buildings.