The City of Johannesburg is facing a huge crisis with the alarming number of hazardous and hijacked buildings that are occupied by the vulnerable and poor in the CBD.
The absence of clear policy direction on fire safety and lack of enforcement of bylaws over the years has further compounded this problem. The latest fire inside a hijacked building on Commissioner Street, which left two people dead and scores injured, is another reminder of the perilous state of buildings in the city centre.
While the city has the sole responsibility to ensure public safety in buildings, it has not taken pragmatic steps over time to effectively deal with decaying properties and provide habitable housing in the inner city.
City officials have often sought to point fingers at non governmental organisations, accusing them of being a stumbling block in dealing with the problem. This rhetoric has also been used to blame migrants while the real issue, which is lack of decent housing, is allowed to fester.
What we have witnessed this week in the aftermath of another building fire is the usual reaction by politicians seeking to divert attention from taking accountability for the mess.
The rejuvenation of Joburg CBD has mostly been led by private companies such as banks, which have developed pockets of the city into beautified urban precincts. These developments havebrought with them economicactivity that opens opportunities for traders and workers seeking to make a living in tough economic times.