The residents of an abandoned building in Doornfontein, in the inner city of Johannesburg, where three children were killed on Monday when a wall collapsed, had been waiting eight months for the City of Johannesburg to provide emergency accommodation, TimesLive reported. The incident has highlighted Johannesburg's massive housing problem, where thousands live in squalour in its abandoned buildings.
According to the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (Seri), the 200 residents occupying the building in Davies street were just 300 of about 100,000 people living in abandoned buildings in Johannesburg's inner city. Many of these buildings are in dangerously poor condition and occupied by people who cannot afford to pay rent or buy houses.
Seri reportedly said the City of Johannesburg had assessed the Davies street building in July 2017, and a report given to Mayor Herman Mashaba had recommended that the residents be provided with alternative accommodation. But no steps were taken to this end.
The City has a Constitutional obligation to provide emergency accommodation to these residents, Seri reportedly said.
According to Eyewitness News (EWN), three children between the ages of three and 10 were killed when the wall collapsed on top of them. Two other children were reportedly injured.
Johannesburg emergency services' Robert Mulaudzi told EWN that the children were declared dead on the scene after resuscitation efforts failed. Rescue workers were trying to remove some of the other unstable walls to prevent another collapse, he reportedly said.
Mulaudzi said the building had been declared unsafe for habitation but "illegal structures" were erected inside it.
The City said its disaster management team would provide accommodation for the residents who are now displaced.
The building is reportedly an abandoned warehouse in which about 30 shacks had been erected, according to IOL.
On the scene on Monday, Mashaba reportedly said tragedies like this could be avoided if the process of reclaiming abandoned buildings is sped up.
"This type of tragedy could be avoided if the process of the expropriation of abandoned buildings is sped up. These children lost their lives so tragically because our residents don't have safe places to call home," he reportedly said.