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Operation Nyanga Ntathu is targeting inner city buildings where building regulations and City by-laws are being flouted. Already one building has been shut down.
BUILDING owners who do not comply with the City’s rules and regulations will face the full wrath of Operation Nyanga Ntathu, a three-month campaign to enforce building regulations and by-laws in the inner city and surrounds.

 

An informal settlement withing a buildingAn informal settlement withing a buildingThe campaign, a joint venture between Joburg’s emergency management services (EMS), metro police, City Power, environmental health and urban development departments, and the South African Police Service, was launched on 4 July in Booysens.
 

It is aimed at making sure building owners comply with safety and building standard regulations, and will run from Monday to Thursday for 12 weeks in the inner city.

On 6 July, there was chaos at the corner of Kruis and Salisbury streets in the CBD, at City Hives, a 3 000m² three-storey building. Operation Nyanga Ntathu shut down the building, which is used for business and residential purposes, and scores of people who lived there illegally were evacuated.

According to Buyile Shabangu, the divisional chief of the EMS, the building does not comply with by-laws and regulations. “It is a business building but it is used as a residential area,” he said.

“The building is a high risk; fire can erupt because the square block shacks are divided by flash boards that are highly flammable.”

The owner of the building, who lived in Durban, had been warned several times since 2009. “And two weeks ago we indicated to them that they needed to operate under conditions that meet the standards as outlined by the City,” said Shabangu.

To meet these standards, the building should abide by the rules regarding safe evacuation of people when fire broke out; should have fire-fighting equipment that was easily accessible; should withstand a certain amount of heat; and must be adequately ventilated.

Percy Morokane, the EMS spokesperson, said water and electricity were illegally connected in the building. “The conditions are not suitable for people to live in. Each room is the size of a bathroom and you find about five people in one room,” he said.

 

The building goes under lock and keyThe building goes under lock and keyEach floor of the building is divided into “sections and avenues” composed of rows of shacks made of plastic and wood sheets. Each tenant pays R20 for water and electricity. Rent ranges from R850 to R1 200 per room.
 

Ninety percent of people who live here are foreigners.

Twenty-year-old Oscar Kapichi from Malawi has been in South Africa for two months and shares a shack in the building with four friends. He stood across the street watching the evictions, worried about where he would sleep now. “I do not know anyone in here beside my friends,” he said.

Holding back his tears, Kapichi said: “If it gets worse, I will go back to Malawi.”

Another tenant, Jennet Mbewu, a 57-year-old mother and grandmother, was furious. She had just paid for the shack she shares with her two daughters and their children, a two-year-old and a three-month-old.

“Look,” she pointed at her grandchildren. “Where are we going to sleep with children in this cold weather?”

Should the owner of the building decide to comply with City regulations, it would be returned to the owner, Shabangu explained.

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