After countless complaints from residents about the deteriorating state of infrastructure in Westbury and surrounding areas, City of Johannesburg’s Speaker of Council Vasco Da Gama and Section 79 oversight committee chairpersons went to see for themselves.
Section 79 committees are service delivery oversight bodies that find a problem, highlight it and give City officials a deadline to deal with it.
On 9 May, the entourage inspected the council flats, the state of Joe Slovo informal settlement, housing issues in Waterval, so-called lolly lounges in Claremont and poor living conditions in some of the residences.
Some residents have been living in the flats for over 30 years and have been enduring poor service delivery. Josephine Adams recalled the day her son fell from the first floor of one of the blocks of flats.
He was leaning against the railing when the entire steel structure came loose. Adams said that only a week prior, her young daughter also fell through a gap in one of the railings.
Da Gama’s spokesperson, Lillian Kolisang, added that after the child fell, the Speaker went to the flats that night and fixed the railings himself.
The local councillor was also apparently held hostage by the community.
The Speaker told Northcliff Melville Times that the residents of these areas have been neglected for quite some time. The relationship between residents and the City has become close to non-existent, with many not paying their monthly rentals.
“[These are] our buildings, we are supposed to maintain [them]. The City is not providing the things that residents need to have pride in where they live,” he said.
“But it also does not help to [withhold] payment from the City. I can understand why residents started neglecting this responsibility, but it is time that we develop plans around these housing issues and find the best ways to deal with it.
“Pursuant to the oversight visit, I held a meeting with senior officials from City entities to discuss the way forward and requested a report regarding urgent interventions to be implemented to remedy the urgent service requests.”
After two weeks, a comprehensive report on plans to address the bigger challenges raised on maintenance will also be tabled, he said.