Wednesday, October 19, 2011
State’s dens of iniquity
State’s dens of iniquity
October 19 2011 at 09:00am
SHAMEFUL: Some of the Gauteng government-owned houses for which large amounts of money are owed to the Ekurhuleni municipality. Residents living in these houses have been accused of having turned them into brothels and drug dens. Pictures: Ziphozonke Lushaba
GAUTENG government-owned houses are being used as brothels and drug dens, and the illegal occupiers owe the local metro council more than R2 million in rates and services.
This was revealed during the sitting of the Gauteng Legislature yesterday.
The 40 houses and a block of flats – which are in a state of decay – are located in 14th and 15th Avenues in Boksburg North.
DA provincial leader and housing spokeswoman Janet Semple raised concern about the state of these houses when she posed several questions to MEC for Housing and Local Government Humphrey Mmemezi yesterday.
Mmemezi was absent, so MEC for Health and Social Development Ntombi Mekgwe stood in for him.
GET OUT: Benno Robinson fights for the eviction of people living in government-owned houses without paying for rates and services.
Semple asked whether the Ekurhuleni metro was enforcing municipal by-laws to bring an end to the poor state of health, overcrowding and illegal business activity in the area.
In her reply, Mekgwe admitted to the legislature that the government-owned houses were “being used as illegal boarding houses in terms of overcrowding and renting rooms”.
Mekgwe said notices had been served on registered tenants and that the matter had been handed over to the Ekurhuleni metropolitan municipality’s legal and corporate section.
Those registered owners had remained in their houses after the government bought them out.
She also said it was “not desirable” that the premises had been turned into venues of crime, prostitution and drug dealing. Mekgwe added the metro would investigate claims that the residents were not paying rates and taxes.
According to local residents, including councillor Benno Robinson, their problem began 10 years ago, when the provincial government bought the properties.
The residents further allege the sex workers’ customers, some of them truck drivers – were using the parking lot of a local church to park their vehicles before visiting the brothels.
Robinson said the govern- ment planned to construct a double road on 14th Road. He said the legal owners had vacated their properties but the government had failed to go ahead with the project.
The houses became occupied, mostly by illegal immigrants.
According to Robinson, Ekurhuleni officials are reluctant to deal with the problems because they have been instructed to work through the province regarding issues of health, illegal land use and other laws.
Robinson said Boksburg North was once a lower to middle-class neighbourhood, but the area had become a slum.
Boksburg North police station commissioner Colonel Martin van Nieuwenhuizen confirmed that the government houses were being used for drug peddling and prostitution.
He said the majority of complaints by local residents related to drugs, prostitution, illegal street racing, housebreaking and theft of motor vehicles, and that the houses were the source of most of the crimes.
Last year, The Star reported that more than 780 state-owned houses in Gauteng were occupied by relatives and friends of government officials.
( The Star)