South Africa

Joburg becoming a crime scene

Corrupt government officials, particularly at the municipal level, have turned South Africa’s economic hub into a “crime scene”.

This is the view of Wits University Adjunct Professor Alex van den Heever, who told eNCA that the rising issue of hijacked buildings in Johannesburg is one example of government failure in the city.

“The culprits lie squarely within the municipal government, including its various agencies and the Johannesburg property company,” Van den Heever said. 

“If you had to look now at the Johannesburg CBD, it is becoming a crime scene overall. There is complete neglect from one end to the other. It looks like a failed state.” 

He said this should not be the case in what has been, up until now, the economic hub of South Africa.

“When you see something like this, it is invariably because there is endemic corruption and that the public officials who are responsible for reasonable oversight and management of the assets of Johannesburg, its public buildings, as well as its municipal infrastructure, that they don’t have any incentive,” Van den Heever said. 

“They’re making money from its destruction, not from its upkeep. There is no other explanation for what we’re seeing, and it’s extremely worrying because the collapse is rapid at this point in time, and there appears to be absolutely no plan to address this at all.”

He explained that the problem does not lie in the amount of money allocated to the city. 

Rather, the problem is “the money doesn’t hit the ground” due to the endemic corruption of some South African officials.

Van den Heever added that there does not appear to be any systematic approach to deal with Johannesburg’s problems, and government officials are just allowing them to grow and deepen.

Wits Adjunct Professor Alex van den Heever

Last year, Ratings Afrika’s principal ratings officer, Charl Kocks, said local municipalities are in a dire state because money is not used for service delivery.

“Residents are not getting value for their money as most of it is going to areas that are not related to service delivery,” he said.

Kocks said municipal infrastructure is in a dilapidated state. Fixing the infrastructure costs tremendous amounts because there was no frequent maintenance.

In many cases, the infrastructure must be replaced because it has deteriorated to such a level that normal maintenance is no longer possible.

Kocks added that municipalities are in such financial trouble that there is not enough money for infrastructure maintenance and repairs.

“Most municipalities will tell you there is a backlog in services they need to provide, there is a backlog infrastructure provisioning, and that housing is in a dire state,” he said.

He also questioned Johannesburg’s claim to be a world-class city considering the infrastructure and service delivery collapse.

“There is definitely a mismatch between the perception the city has of itself and what Johannesburg residents see,” he said.

Kocks said it is not an easy situation to turn around as it may involve staff cuts to make money available for infrastructure development.


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